ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
March 8, 2000

CLP AND ALP POLLIES JOIN IN BID TO FIGHT ALCOHOL TROUBLES. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.

Liquor sale restrictions to curb the rampant alcohol related harm and public disorder in Alice Springs will be discussed by representatives of most community organisations on March 21.Setting political differences aside, the CLP Member for MacDonnell, John Elferink, and Labor’s Peter Toyne (Stuart), are arranging the meeting to make recommendations to the Liquor Commission.In Katherine, where Deputy Chief Minister and local MLA Mike Reed chaired a similar group, liquor take-away and other restrictions came into force on January 1, resulting in a "much quieter and less violent” town, according to Mr Elferink, where "you can now walk down the street unmolested".He says booze in Central Australia has killed many more Australians than the Vietnam War.Mr Toyne says he has lost many friends to alcohol, and the time had now come to "cut through the inertia"."It's no good going ‘round and 'round," says Mr Toyne. "We must break through and take immediate action."However, the commission would act only in line with clearly expressed wishes of the community, say Mr Elferink and Mr Toyne, who are part of an action group that also includes ATSIC Regional Manager Richard Preece, veteran politician and former Senator, Bernie Kilgariff, and Gary Stoll, of the Finke River Mission, who has close links to the Arrernte community.Mr Elferink says the initiative here could become "Katherine Mark Two".The commission imposed a string of restrictions in Katherine for a trial period of 12 months.During the first half of this year, six major outlets are allowed to sell take-away liquor only between 2pm and 8pm, three of them – including Woolworths – not on Sundays.From July 1, trading hours will revert to those in force before January 1, but fortified wines, and wines in containers of a capacity greater than two litres, will be barred from sale on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.Other – smaller – outlets are unaffected by the restrictions but Liquor Commissioner Peter Allen warned in his written decision that he would ensure "the licence conditions and trading hours pertaining to these premises do not subvert the trial restrictions".The trial is being closely monitored.Despite its acute alcohol related problems, Alice Springs has a long history of procrastination about effective measures, while "anti social behaviour" has continued or got worse and wine cask consumption, for example, has skyrocketed.Figures for the period 1995-96 to 1997-98 showed that there was a 68 per cent increase in consumption of wine casks above two litres. Consumption of that type of liquor was by far the standout increase in alcohol consumption in the town. However, Mr Toyne says, "It needs to be pointed out that in 1997-98 the average annual consumption for every person over 15 years of age was 23.8 litres of pure alcohol."This compares with a Territory average of 14.5 litres and national average in 1990 of 8.4 litres."The arithmetic of the figures for Alice tell us that there is a very broad high consumption of alcohol in this town. If only Aboriginal drinkers were responsible for this level of consumption they would all be dead."In calling this public meeting w are hoping for a broad-based community discussion about reducing alcohol-related harm for everybody."The Drug and Alcohol Services Association (DASA) has for years held meetings and forums, without tangible results.A pile of reports have been written. An initiative by the business community – launched with much fanfare in the presence of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron – to tackle the problem by creating 50 jobs failed to bring about any noticeable improvement.The Katherine trial indicates that the Liquor Commission is willing – and obliged – to act in response to recommendations from a meeting such as the one being called by Mr Toyne and Mr Elferink.Commission chairman Peter Allen demonstrated in Katherine that he is willing to act in the face of stiff liquor industry opposition – which included Woolworths – when there is "growing public dissatisfaction within the ... community with the level of alcohol related public disorder".He said: "In particular, the Commission accepted that the meeting on 24 March 1999 of 'Community, Business And Government Representatives To Consider Further Options To Combat Anti-social Behaviour in Katherine' [the Mike Reed Committee] was sufficiently representative of the Katherine community for the Commission to be persuaded to implement the resolution of unanimous support passed at that meeting for a reduction in trading hours."Mr Allen said the commission's "statutory duty requires it to heed such an expression of public concern and initiative".CHRONICHe described the Katherine situation in these terms: "It is clear that the problems are caused mainly by a core group of about a hundred Aboriginal people who are chronic alcoholics of no fixed abode within the town area."This group is augmented at various times by other Aboriginal people coming into town from outlying communities on an event-driven basis such as football matches, concerts, visiting hospitalised relatives and the like."These people too for the most part have no place to go or stay whilst in Katherine." Mr Allen acknowledged that alcohol availability restrictions by themselves would not solve all problems, but the commission "does not see that it should refrain from exercising its powers until some future time when some ideal community-structured plan may eventuate".Mr Allen rejected claims by Woolworths that a reduction of take-away trading hours by 50 per cent would be "too severe and radical".He accepted a submission that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry was a participant in the Reed committee, and Woolworths is a member of the chamber.Mr Allen says: "It was submitted on behalf of both Woolworths and Crossways that the problems of and created by a minority should not be allowed to impact adversely on those who are not part of the problem."This was also the thrust of a petition circulated in Alice Springs by a private citizen, Shane Arnfield, some years ago.Mr Allen says: "However, it is clear from the evidence that most of those elements of the Katherine community who are not part of the problem, which is to say most of the Katherine community, far from feeling adversely affected are in fact supporters of the reduction in liquor trading hours."It was submitted on behalf of Woolworths that the problems of a minority should not be able to hold an 'overwhelming majority' to ransom."It seems to the Commission, however, that the picture of a majority being held to ransom by the minority is more descriptive of the situation."INVITEDMr Elferink and Mr Toyne say people and organisations to be invited to the March 21 meeting in Alice Springs will include the police, two doctors, members of the legal fraternity, the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CATIA, former Senator Bernie Kilgariff, the Ministers Fraternal, RFDS, DASA, Dr Richard Lim MLA, Minister for Central Australia Loraine Braham, Tangentyere Council, Central Land Council, Aboriginal Congress, the Australian and Aboriginal legal aid services; Ald Geoff Miers, council CEO Nick Scarvelis and retiring Mayor Andy McNeill as private persons; all churches, Aboriginal leader Margaret Mary Turner OAM, Rotary, Lions, Apex, the Women's Advisory Council – and others requesting to be invited.

BIRDS SHOT, ABANDONED.

Local boys Andrew and Michael McKinlay were upset to find this injured turtle-dove in their backyard on Sunday afternoon, after it had been apparently shot by a Parks and Wildlife officer on the morning of the Friday before.The wound was putrid and the bird died on Sunday evening. Their father, Steve, says the officer has been active in their Gillen neighbourhood "about three times over the past four weeks".He says another bird fell into his neighbour's yard on Friday after it been shot and was left there.The boys' mother, Fiona, says she also saw another little boy in the neighbourhood nursing an injured bird.Both parents say they understand the need to control feral birds but it should be done "in the right way"."The officer should pick up what he shoots, make sure it's dead and dispose of it properly," says Mr McKinlay. "Otherwise it doesn't give a good message to the kids."Senior Conservation Manager with Parks and Wildlife, Tony Boland, says the shooters are highly trained and accurate, and that they are instructed to retrieve all carcasses."The only time they don't retrieve a carcass is when it falls into a fenced yard that's guarded by a vicious dog or if they otherwise can't get in," says Mr Boland."We are aware that the public is sensitive about this and we understand people's concerns, but I would be extremely surprised if more than one per cent of carcasses were not being retrieved."We are carrying out this eradication program as efficiently and effectively as possible. "We don't want the birds to suffer, it has to be humane."The target species for the program are the ring-necked turtle-dove and the Barbary dove. Parks and Wildlife estimate that there are now some 5000 of these feral birds in Alice Springs, competing with native species."We don't know what diseases they carry that may spread to native species, and they certainly compete with them for nest sites and food."The native crested pigeon is outnumbered by the feral doves and the little native dove species don't even get a look in when the ferals are around."The feral doves also drown out the beautiful morning chorus of the native birds, which is a disappointment and frustration for many locals."Mr Boland says all officers authorised to control the feral birds wear a Parks and Wildlife uniform and drive a marked vehicle.They use an air rifle.Self-mustering traps are also used. Anyone not in uniform who is shooting birds should be reported to the police.He urges anyone with concerns about the program to get in touch with himself or Conservation Operations Officer, Ross Brien.

ALD. HARRIS SLAMS COUNCIL BUREAUCRACY.

So you're going to run for Council because you think you can do a much better job: make sure you go in with your eyes open.New elected members can expect to be congratulated by senior bureaucrats. You will be shown around the Council offices and told, "If you want anything done, just come to me." You will be feted and your ego stroked; ingratiation will be the first approach.In the first three months, you will be given (for your own benefit) a massive amount of information to read. There will be at least three inches of paperwork for each meeting. Not many elected members will have the stamina. The clear message is, trust in your senior Council bureaucrats because you cannot hope to read enough to keep up with us.You have three options here:
1. Admit defeat (this is the easiest path).
2. Read all of the papers (and give your family a taste of things to come).
3. Ask the officers to summarise the important information from each report into a paragraph.
Please note that option three will be met with staunch resistance. Your fellow elected members (who haven't read the papers) will call you "a woos" and those who have already taken the easy path will accuse you of making extra work for the poor Council officers. The Council officers will then explain to you how summarising will be impossible because everything that they have given you is desperately important, provides context, etc etc.Three months in and the pleasantries are over. The elected members have been sussed by the senior Council officers. There are those that have fallen into line and will support the bureaucrats by rubber-stamping reports and recommendations. Hopefully, for democracy's sake, there is not already a solid majority of elected members in this category. Now it's time for the officers to consolidate their power and control. This is the bit that you always thought was funny on Yes Minister. Who's laughing now? One day you ask a question that you think is important and in the public interest. Surprisingly, the officer concerned gets extremely defensive and huffy. The question goes unanswered in the midst of all the indignity. Even though you push the point, the question is not recorded in the Minutes. If you follow it up (which is hard when you have other commitments), then it might get answered. If it gets answered, the point of the question and the meaning of the answer will be ignored. This can keep going on and on ... well for four years actually.But this is just the soft stuff. You remember that there were some things that you wanted to achieve. You get focussed and start to really press the significant issues and reforms. Then comes the hard stuff. You will be made aware that elected members of Council have no legal protection from anything. You may even be threatened with legal action by your own officers or fellow elected members to shut you up. They may even use ratepayer's money to obtain their legal advice. At the very least, they will have a professional association with the capacity to write indignant and threatening memos. The senior bureaucrats, whose feelings you have hurt, will push the Council to develop a code of conduct to improve the behaviour of elected members!If you remain focussed on your issues after all of this, you enter a whole new world of bureaucratic manoeuvring. You might discover that a large and important Council contract is not being managed according to specifications. You start asking questions and get fobbed off. You collect evidence that is irrefutable and get elected members to support fixing the problem. Still nothing changes until you get it on the front page of the paper. Then it changes for a few weeks before reverting back to how it was.You see the sense in consultancies, as answers are not forthcoming from the senior bureaucrats. Or it may be that there is a need for specialist expertise and support in an area Council employees are not expert in. In practice however, senior bureaucrats will be the sole liaison point directing the consultant – the brief and therefore the outcome can therefore be redefined in ways that would cause Sir Humphrey to blush. And of course the consultant will have to perform to the bureaucrats' satisfaction before payment is made. Another year or so is wasted, and large amounts of the ratepayers' money has been spent to marginal effect.You realise that although Council employs over 100 staff, you only ever see information after it has been approved by the three or four senior bureaucrats. Although there is some merit in having the most senior people checking on reports, you are surprised that these senior people can be across such a diverse range of issues. If you are still asking questions, you note the most frequent answer is a waffled version of "I don't know". Sometimes you get an answer at a later date, but if you don't insist on moving a motion that your question be answered by a certain date it will not be recorded in the Minutes. An answer is unlikely unless you follow it up. At this stage, many of your fellow elected members will be so frustrated at not having achieved anything that they will be happy to make the decision before getting the question answered next month or the month after.You decide that there is not enough public input into Council decisions in certain areas and are able to successfully argue for a community advisory committee to be established. Residents will be invited to participate. Many talented and experienced people will volunteer their time, because that is the kind of town Alice is. Some of these people will end up resigning in complete frustration at the lack of progress. This will be encouraged through various bureaucratic techniques such as not providing any information at the start. Then when people start requesting information, they will be overwhelmed by big, fat reports and long-winded presentations (preferably by consultants for three hours or so). Then the advice and experience of people on these committees will be ignored, if it is contrary to the intended outcome of the bureaucrats. Advisory committee meetings may be scheduled for later in the month so that any advice arrives too late for Council to consider until the following month. Suddenly the bureaucrats need to make a quick decision and there is no time to receive advice from the advisory committee, etc ... Rates will go up every year by five per cent or so but services don't seem to improve. This represents more money for Council to play with and elected members are unable to control the budget, so no prizes for guessing who gets to play with it. All of the major components of the budget are decided prior to your involvement and you will be allowed to debate at length a few minor issues. Throughout the year, vigorous debate will be encouraged about whether to give $500 to this charity or that. Meanwhile, information about a long term financial plan is promised for four years and never seems to arrive. This does not stop various proposals being presented which argue for millions of dollars to be spent on, amongst other things, bigger and better offices for Council's white collar staff.
More next week.
ALD GEOFF HARRIS
Town Council CEO Nick Scarvelis was invited to reply to Ald Harris's comments but declined to do so, saying it would be "inappropriate".Mr Scarvelis's comment on the benefits of some of Council's consultancies was not ready at the time of going to press. Mr Scarvelis said it would be ready for next week's issue.

ALICE'S ECONOMY SEE-SAWS AS THE NEW TAXES LOOM. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

While a national survey has reported that Northern Territory small business had a disappointing last quarter, in Alice Springs the quarter varied greatly depending on the type of business.The latest Yellow Pages Small Business Index reports that sales growth and profitability fell in the Territory, as did the number of proprietors employing additional staff.Of the businesses surveyed, capital expenditure had been nil, but expectations for the current quarter were brighter in all areas.In Alice Springs, Anthony Neck of the Murray Neck group, one of the town's oldest traders, told the Alice News that the Neck companies had a better quarter than the same period 12 months ago.Staffing remained the same, and there was little capital expenditure, but that will change later this year when the company makes a significant expansion into the furniture retail market.The expansion will see Electricworld move from its present site opposite Billygoat Hill into new, much larger showrooms in the Western Precinct. The new store will offer just about everything wished for inside a house, catering predominantly to local householders.Mr Neck was alone among business people contacted by the News to actually look forward to the GST.He said it will bring about some reductions in prices which will benefit the Neck group's consumers, but he also thinks that it will make all businesses more efficient."All businesses will have to have very good financial records, and good records mean you are able to review your performance more closely," said Mr Neck.In a business that relies more on an interstate and international clientele – 85 to 90 per cent of their customers are visitors to Alice Springs – Roslyn Premont of Gallery Gondwana, dealing mainly in Central Australian Aboriginal art, reported a drop in sales over the last quarter.Ms Premont said her company's involvement in exhibitions interstate and overseas helped them ride out the quieter than usual Christmas period in Alice.The current quarter is also very quiet, as expected:"There is usually a surge around Easter and then things don't really pick up, full steam, until July."With us it's not a numbers game. Hotels in town may be fully booked, but if it's mostly with tour groups, we don't feel the benefit. Our customers are the travellers with significant disposable income."Ms Premont said she has become used to highs and lows in the business over its 10 years, and she remains sufficiently confident about the future to have put on an extra member of staff. This person is dedicated to developing Gallery Gondwana's "e-commerce", that is, sales over the Internet."I'm thinking two years ahead," said Ms Premont, convinced that the Aboriginal art market will remain buoyant.The Small Business Index reported a remarkable confidence in the Northern Territory Government among small business people.Mr Neck said his company's performance was not particularly affected by NT Government policy.However, Ms Premont said she does feel respected and supported in practical ways as an entrepreneur by the Department of Industries and Business. She said her colleagues interstate do not enjoy anything like the same level of support, for instance with the development of a business plan, or information in response to a range of queries.She also said the new Minister for Arts, Tim Baldwin, has shown a keen interest in the Aboriginal art movement."His people are asking a lot of questions, and I think they are keen to put some policies forward."She described the GST as "a headache" and, although her business is prepared for its introduction, she expressed concern about its impact on Aboriginal artists, especially itinerant artists.Bev Ellis at Dymocks Booksellers said she also had to give the NT Government "10 out of 10" for its "buy local" policy, which requires that government departments seek quotes from local suppliers before they go interstate.She said her business would like to benefit from contracts to local schools to supply textbooks, but it is hard to compete with the economies of scale that large interstate companies enjoy."I think everybody needs to look at the long-term prospects of Alice Springs when they are making economic decisions."We, like many businesses, are happy to support local fetes or such and to try to place work experience students, knowing that those schools or organisations shop locally."A healthy, growing local economy will augur well for everybody."Mrs Ellis said her sales were "very good" over the Christmas quarter but business is quiet now.She lost staff over summer and hasn't replaced them yet.She bought some new equipment – a computer, printer and photocopier.She said her confidence in the future is buoyed by the evidence of consumers still wanting to read books (despite dire predictions about the impact of the Internet and new technologies) and by things like the NT Government's new promotion to get people to come to the Territory.Everyone in Alice Springs is affected by tourism, said Mrs Ellis.Dymocks sells direct to tourists, especially books about Aboriginal culture and art, and maps, but the business also benefits indirectly."Tourists stay in hotels, hotels employ staff and those staff want to read books," said Mrs Ellis.On the GST, Mrs Ellis said her business is as prepared as it can be."There has never been a tax on books before, but despite intense lobbying by the Australian Booksellers' Association, the Federal Government has insisted that books will be included in the new system."Book prices will go up. There is nothing in our industry like a 22 per cent sales tax to offset the impact of the GST."She expects some initial resistance from consumers, but "after a while it will settle down and people will start buying again".For the car industry, the GST has bitten before its actual introduction.Trevor Smith of Northpoint Cars said the Federal Government has done "a fantastic job of confusing the people of Australia".He said there is a "buyer's strike" in relation to cars and that his company has just recorded its worst quarter in 10 years.He does not expect any sales growth until June and may even be looking at a downturn.He said he is having to batten down the hatches, looking at every area of expenditure and seeing where he can trim.So far, he has not had to lay off staff "but that's not to say it won't happen".At the same time, he has had to think of how to attack the market, which means spending extra money to launch the Daewoo dealership.He said the car industry is having to bend over backwards to entice people to buy cars, and that consumers should realise that with these deals in place they would be better off buying now, rather than waiting till after the introduction of the GST.Mr Smith said that as an Alice Springs business man he does not feel supported by the NT Government."They look after the Top End. There is no capital works expenditure here at present to generate business in Alice Springs."He said he looks to the Alice Springs Town Council to engender pride in the town.He feels that annual events need to be embraced with greater enthusiasm."We should dress up the town, give it a 'mardi gras' atmosphere, and we need to do something for our young people, give them somewhere to go."This sort of enthusiasm would then flow on to business."OPPORTUNITIESHe said opportunities like the railway need to be talked up: "If it's all doom and gloom, then everybody clams up, and nothing good will happen."Another member of the car industry, Les Robertson of Don Grant Auto Electrics, said business, quiet since Christmas, has begun to pick up just over the last week."But we would need a bit more work yet to get us to an average level."He normally has a staff of five, but at present is making do with four.By contrast, the same period 12 months ago was good.He said that for some inexplicable reason customers do not like to leave their cars at the workshop when it rains.When his business is quiet, his capital expenditure goes up, because that is when he has got time to do maintenance.He said he is not aware of any policies of the NT Government affecting his business.On the GST, he said the Federal Government "have stuffed up a good system".Nonetheless, he is prepared as he can be for its introduction, still waiting for the Government's final decisions on aspects of the implementation.The Small Business Index reported an all time low in business confidence among the personal service businesses, such as hairdressers and restaurants.Josie Callipari, proprietor of Headhunters, said "that's because nobody, including the banks, make it easy for small business".She also feels that hair-dressing is under-rated as an industry, and that many consumers are unwilling to pay for the service offered.In a relatively small town, there is not a large enough section of the population to readily support "up market" salons, she said.Growing her business also depends on finding good staff.Her experience has shown there is enough business for at least three full time hairdressers and one part-time, but they have to be the right people for the job.On the GST Ms Callipari said she is not worried as "everyone is affected".She said all the salons should work together to make the same proportionate increase in prices.The Small Business Index contrasted the situation of personal service businesses with business services such as accountants, of whom a net 64 per cent across the nation reported a "bullish" confidence about their future prospects.The survey found that service businesses were more likely to be opposed to the GST, but with the exception of business services, including accountants.

ATSIC MAKES CASE FOR CANBERRA QUASHING MANDATORY SENTENCING.

Breaches of Australia's international obligations are likely to be central to the Federal Parliament's imminent debate of Senator Bob Brown's Human Rights (Mandatory Sentencing of Juvenile Offenders) Bill.They are also at the core of a split in the NT Labor Party, with Federal Member Warren Snowdon urging Federal intervention, while Territory ALP Parliamentarians want Canberra to stay out of the fray (first reported by the Alice News on February 16).Territory Chief Minister Denis Burke has stated that his information is that there are no breaches.The Alice News has asked Mr Burke to respond to specific allegations raised in an ATSIC submission to the recent Senate inquiry which argues otherwise.The submission points out that the Commonwealth Government has previously overridden state legislation in response to a finding of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.That committee, headed by former Irish president Mary Robinson, is now to consider whether the Territory's mandatory sentencing legislation breaches Australia's obligations in relation to the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).ATSIC's submission reported that a previous finding of the committee led to Commonwealth intervention.The submission was prepared by the Director of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Sydney, in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.It says that the Human Rights Committee found that Tasmanian legislation in a matter relating to sexual discrimination and criminalisation of gays (the Toonen case) violated the ICCPR.The Commonwealth overrode the legislation with its Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994.COMPLAINTThis ultimately came about as a result of an individual taking a complaint to the Human Rights Committee.Australia agreed to this grievance procedure (the First Optional Protocol of the ICCPR) in 1991.However, there are no individual grievance procedures under CROC.The ATSIC submission notes that the Committee for CROC has already criticised Australia in relation to mandatory sentencing of detention for juveniles, particularly drawing attention to its adverse adverse impact on Indigenous young people.The CROC articles against which mandatory sentencing legislation may offend are summarised by the ATSIC submission:• Article 3(1) states that in all actions concerning children (including in courts of law) the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
• Article 40(1) of CROC requires that the desirability of promoting the child's reintegration and the child's assuming a constructive role in society is taken into account in the treatment of young offenders.
• Article 14(4) also emphasises the importance of rehabilitation.
• Article 40(4) states that a variety of alternatives to institutionalisation must be available to ensure that children are dealt with in a manner appropriate to their well-being and proportionate to both their circumstances and the offence.
• Article 12 requires that children participate and be given a voice in any decisions which affect them.
• Article 37 requires that children be deprived of their liberty only as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate time. "Taking other articles into account, the Convention clearly requires that the shortest appropriate time must be decided on the basis of the individual child rather than through a blanket application of the law," argues the ATSIC submission.• Article 37 (a) prohibits inhuman and degrading punishment.
"Arguably mandatory sentencing can give rise to inhuman treatment through the use of incarceration for trivial offences. "The ICCPR also prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Article 7 and will apply to both adults and juveniles," according to the submission.
• CROC requires that juveniles be separated from adult offenders when held in custody.
The submission quotes the Northern Territory Prison Officers Union as confirming that under 17 year olds have been held in adult prisons. Four were under the age of 15 years, two of whom were 12 year olds.
The submission says both CROC and the ICCPR require that sentences be reviewable by a higher or appellate court.
Mandatory sentences by their nature are not reviewable in terms of their severity.
The ATSIC submission also summarises the way in which mandatory sentencing may violate the ICCPR:• There are substantial arguments which could be put to demonstrate that grossly disproportionate punishments contravene the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.
• Mandatory sentencing may contravene Article 9 on arbitrariness because such sentences are potentially inappropriate and unjust.
• The imprisonment of Indigenous children and adults hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of kilometres from their families and communities casts doubt on Australia's compliance with Article 27 of the ICCPR, concerning the obligation not to deprive Indigenous peoples of the right to enjoy their own culture.

LETTERS: 'EFFLUENT FLOWING OVER ROAD IS NOT TREATED'.

Sir,- I write in response to the article in the Alice Springs News, 23 February, 2000, headlined "Effluent over the Ilparpa Road". The article states that the effluent is "treated" – I don't think so!The sewer ponds are not treatment plants; they are evaporation ponds. The sewerage farm holds solids for bacteria breakdown only. There is no chlorination to kill bacteria. On a normal day, the flow rate into the ponds is between nine and 15 megalitres. With heavy rains and overcast conditions the amount of water entering the ponds almost doubles. This is due to the fact that along with the inundation of rain water, household stormwater, in many instances, is channelled (illegally) into the sewers instead of the storm water drainage system. The overcast conditions slow the evaporation rate and the ponds overflow, with highly polluted waters. Concentrated raw sewerage flows into the Ilparpa swamp, over Ilparpa Road, under the South Stuart Highway culvert in the vicinity of St Mary's and then finds its way into the Inner/Outer Farms Area. The article further states that the water is tested periodically – where are the results?A site at Brewer Estate was identified in the 1980s to establish new evaporation ponds to rid the town of its sewerage problems, but sadly, due to the costs involved, the project did not proceed. Yet the NT Government can still find funds to beautify the North Stuart Highway. Why not address the town's sewerage problems first?Further, the statement that an engineering study is currently under consideration to inject the so-called "treated" effluent back into the aquifer "below the sewerage ponds" to irrigate parks etc. is irresponsible/questionable. Firstly, the effluent is not treated! Secondly the inner and outer farms aquifer is one and the same with the sewerage ponds aquifer. It is possible you would be polluting a currently "potable" (?) water supply. There are a number of properties within this area which have established their own irrigation systems (bores) and I doubt that they would be willing to accept the addition of "treated effluent" into such systems.The removal of heavy metals, dissolved salts and oils from sewage water is not economical. The Government cannot afford to relocate the existing sewage ponds (a cheaper option), so how can they even consider the idea of "treating" effluent.If Alice Springs was north of the Berrimah line, I'm sure that costs to relocate ponds would not be a problem.
Gary Taylor,
Alice Springs

Sir,- I'm at it again! I'm seeing red! Check out Centralian College's Year 2000 handbook and you'll see what's bugging me: the English language has been very poorly represented within the glossy pages of this boastful bulletin.I won't list examples although I must comment that my principal bugbear, the feral apostrophe, is once again at the fore. In one instance, it isn't even tangled up in a plural-versus-possessive wrangle: it appears within a present tense verb. Thus, on page three, a testimonial from a College staffer claims that it offers "programs which reflect's the best practice." This is not, of course, the best practice of the English language.Diane McEwan, the Executive Director, claims that "Our expertise in looking after our students is a vital aspect of the educational process and one that I am sure you will find of vital importances."I hope Ms McEwan can divert some of this vital importance to the performance standards of her institution's future public relations organs.
Meredith Campbell
Alice Springs

Sir,- Diabetic Australia (NT) is celebrating 20 years of working in the Territorythis year, and the Board has commissioned Peter Forrest of Darwin to write up the history during that period. A sub committee has been formed to assist Peter and I am the Alice Springs member of that committee.We are asking people who may have stories of the early days of the Association, meetings, outings, anything, to give a touch of the history. Confidentiality will be observed unless permission is given to use names.If you can make a contribution, please contact me on 8952 1097, or E-mail
and arrangements will be made to talk to you.
Doug Rankin
Board Member, D.A.N.T.
Alice Springs

Sir,- The continuing republican debate, coupled with new arrangements for Commonwealth-State funding arising from tax reforms, and the move towards statehood for the Northern Territory, taken together suggest it is now time to consider the question of creating one or more new states. One significant benefit arising from the establishment of a new state is that it would provide impetus for national development arising from political and administrative decentralisation which historically has been a powerful incentive for economic growth. The United States is the best example of this dynamic at work. One obvious candidate for statehood is the northwest region – that vast, resource-rich, cosmopolitan and geographically coherent area encompassing the existing Northern Territory together with the part of Western Australia falling north of 20 deg S, broadly, the Kimberley. An enlargement of the Territory to encompass the Kimberley would result in a more viable economic and political entity. Moreover, one would expect such a division to be popular with Territorians who feel an affinity with the residents of the Kimberley; and to be at least acceptable to many West Australians whose social and economic focus is on Perth and the more closely settled areas of the southwest. Combining the two regions politically would also have the advantage of avoiding the costs involved in setting up a new state government. The new state could be called Capricornia or Kimberley rather than the ultra prosaic "Northern Territory".There may be other examples of sensible boundary re-drawing and now seems a good time to get on with it.
Ken Barnes
Glen Iris, Vic

Sir,- My name is Albert Diano. I live in Maryland, USA. I read your Alice Springs News web site every week. It reminds me of home, Alice Springs.Anyhow, I thought you may be interested in printing this information about Australian Rules becoming a big sport in the USA. The local Maryland paper reported that Australian Rules Football has now started in Maryland. Maryland was represented in the United States Australian Football League championship held in Cincinnati on October 14, 1999. Australian Rules Football has been played in the United States for over three years. This year a team was entered for the first time from Maryland in the division 11 tournament. The Maryland side consisted of eight Australians players and 12 players from Maryland. The Australians were: Dave Stewart, Cameron Ash, Dennis Ryan, Albert Diano, Steve Huppaty, Paul Ruwoldt, Scott Greg Box and Mike Jill. From Maryland: Jay Daffy, Sean Diano, Tom Balks, Chris Claypool, Buck Diano, and Pete Animas. The coach was Steve Huppaty and captain was Dennis Ryan. Everybody played well. The Maryland side, known as the Baltimore Washington Eagles, went through the tournament undefeated and was far too strong for the other teams. Dave Stewart won best on ground for the championship. If you can pass this message to the CAFL I would be grateful, as we need more help from our Aussie clubs back home. If they would like to help maybe they can email me back.Albert (Outback Al) DianoADiano2359@aol.comSir,- Was there really an Alice? The famous TV series firmly implanted the name "Alice Springs" in our minds. We loved the independence, grit and humor portrayed. We just know that your townsfolk must be all of that with a little crazy thrown in for good measure. But to discover that it's represented on the internet by one of the absolute best websites for its purpose is a real joy. You are to be complimented but be wary. If Alice Springs is as interesting as you present it, you're going to be overrun with folks moving in. Anyway, we are far away in Washington State in the USA but will try and keep track of you thanks to this marvellous internet world.
Kenneth and Beverley Wood
Washington State, USA

Sir,- Just wanted to drop a line to let you know how much I enjoy reading the online edition of your paper. I've never been to Alice, but have always wanted to visit. Reading about the people and places make me more determined than ever. Hopefully my wife and I will be by in the next year or two. Until we get there, we'll keep reading.
Patrick Cone
Calgary, Alberta

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