BOOZE BOSS DELAYS ACTION. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Licensing Commissioner Peter Allen agreed to accept as an expression of the views of the community, the combined results of the survey on alcohol availability, now published in the Hauritz report, and the meeting convened on March 21 by MLAs John Elferink and Peter Toyne.But Mr Allen, who declined to comment on the issue, is now reported to be seeking further community consultation, instead of taking immediate action in line with the recommendations of the $82,000 report.Anne Mosey, a member of the Alice Alcohol Representative Committee (AARC) who has worked with remote communities on substance abuse issues for over 10 years, says the community consultation process to be undertaken by Hauritz and Associates was fully explained to Mr Allen and four members of the Licensing Commission at a meeting on March 6, held in the ATSIC boardroom.Present at the meeting, for AARC, were chairperson Meredith Campbell, (town council), Paul McLoughlin (education sector), Richard Preece (ATSIC), Father Pat Mullins (churches), Superintendent Gary Moseley (Police), Michael Bowden (for William Tilmouth, Tangentyere Council), Ray Loechel (hoteliers) and Ms Mosey (public sector).Attending for the Licensing Commission were Mr Allen, and commissioners Shirley McKerrow, Annette Milikins, John Withnall and Mary Rydsdale.The AARC called the meeting specifically to inform Mr Allen about the Hauritz consultancy, says Ms Mosey.She says in the course of the meeting Ms Campbell outlined for the commission the phases of the community consultation, and the way in which it was designed to meet with as many people as possible through the doorknock survey and several community forums and focus groups.She says Ms Campbell also showed Mr Allen the contract with the consultants.Says Ms Mosey: "We knew Mr Allen was looking for comprehensive community consultation on the issues and we asked him if he would accept our process and the March 21 meeting as adequate."He said he would accept the combined results of the two as adequate."At no time during the course of the process did he indicate that any further consultation would be needed in order for him to reach a decision."He also talked to our meeting about the Katherine process. Only 13 people were present at the decisive meeting in Katherine."It is imperative, in view of the grave social concerns noted in the report, that the Liquor Commission accept it in full," says Ms Mosey.Meanwhile, MLA Peter Toyne is urging the community to take back into its own hands the process of doing something about the alcohol problem.Mr Toyne believes that the Hauritz report does represent the views of the town and gives majority backing to an extensive program aimed at reduction of the town’s alcohol consumption and consequently a reduction of alcohol-related harm."The statistical probability of these percentages reflecting anything but the opinion of the town as a whole is absolutely tiny," says Mr Toyne."The report relies on standard statistical sampling techniques. We can say the views of 407 households represent the opinion of the town because of 100 years of development of statistical method, which is used extensively in our social discourse."If anyone wants to contribute to this debate they should say whatever they like, except that there are disciplines involved: one is you can't deny fact; and secondly, you've got to present logic in the position you are taking. "The debate so far has been both denying fact and not presenting a very logical position."The danger now, according to Mr Toyne, is that what started as a community process and a very open and inclusive one, will be drawn into "a much more manipulated and exclusive process"."One way that could happen is by the process being handed through to the Alice in 10 committees, which I don't believe are inclusive or particularly democratic in the way they do things. "I think the bureaucratic structure will adjust the issues to what suits them, not to what suits the town . "The crux of the matter now is how do we return the process back to the people who gave it the mandate for actioning in the first place, and that's the town in the bulk."Mr Toyne says he will call on fellow MLA John Elferink and other members of the Alcohol Reference Group to work with him to convene a meeting of representatives from major community organisations like the one convened in March this year, which strongly backed a program of restrictions on the sale of take- away alcohol (see Alice News, March 29, 2000)."I would be asking that meeting what are we all going to do about the recommendations in this report? "How many of us are going to get down and roll up our sleeves and see if we can mobilise the town to ensure that there is action taken, that this report isn't annexed and buried in an institutional structure. How do we keep it back out with the people?"Mr Elferink says he's happy to call another community meeting, but "at the end of the day it's the Liquor Commissioner's job to assess public support and the ball is now firmly in the Liquor Commissioner's court"."He's talking about seeking further public opinion, which I hope he does very quickly and finally starts to make a few decisions based on what the public of Alice Springs has been saying in the meeting that Peter and I held, in the report itself, and which they'll say to him in the near future when he goes and asks them about their final response. "I'm certainly happy to continue working with Peter [Toyne] on this, and I certainly hope that the message is getting through that there is a feeling out there, especially in relation to the effects of take-away liquor in the community, and that feeling is going to require some sort of response."Mr Elferink has "no major problem with the thrust of the report"; he thinks it "certainly has some very good suggestions in it, good ideas about what can be done"; but he does have concerns about its emotive framing, in particular the title (Dollars Made from Broken Spirits) and "the foreword by Meredith Campbell which talks about battlegrounds and that sort of thing."Well, I've been a police officer and certainly there are real issues out there in terms of public drunkenness but ‘ battleground' is probably too emotive. "I think [by using emotive terms] the consultants have allowed room for criticism to be levelled at what is essentially a lot of hard work."Mr Toyne agrees that the title and the foreword "haven't helped":"We were trying to convince the licensees that we can get a win-win out of this."But I think anyone who reads the report in total would say the title and the foreword are relatively superficial signals that aren't really what the report's all about. "The report's about the town's opinion, reflected in the large number of questions that were responded to." (See story this issue on the community survey: who responded and what they said.)While both MLAs agree that it's time for action, they differ on the question of who should have carriage of the "task force" functions recommended by the report.Mr Toyne is very much in favour of a community-based task force, while Mr Elferink has greater faith in the NT Government's Alice in 10 committees."The Alice in 10 Quality of Life committee is the one that will assist government to form its policies, therefore it carries the government's imprimatur," says Mr Elferink."I think if [another] group was to establish itself, they would be surprised to discover that the real grunt will be with the Alice in 10 group."Mr Toyne feels that the Alice in 10 Quality of Life Committee is "light years away from taking on an agenda like this".Says Mr Toyne: "The difference between Alice in 10 and the task force as recommended in the report is that one is a bureaucratic forum and the other is a community forum, they are chalk and cheese. "This is a very activist set of recommendations, you've got to take on the status quo, not protect it through a bureaucratic process. "If we are ever going to see this acted on we've got to rescue it from being buried in a committee process. I think that needs to be done as a matter of some urgency, because there are already all the earmarks of it being consigned to a shelf and gathering dust."There are alternatives to NT Government funding of a task force. The Commonwealth's Better Cities program, which provides $50,000 to $60,000 seeding grants to community initiatives, is a potential source of funding, and Mr Toyne says an expanded Alcohol Reference Group could provide the community-based steering committee of the task force.Following a community meeting, which he hopes will take place in the course of this month, Mr Toyne will make available the resources of his office "to help circulate something to every household in Alice Springs to get some opinion back again from the town – as unnecessary as I feel that is"."But if the town doesn't pick their own mandate up and enforce it, it will be taken away from them, that's the reality of it."And I'd certainly say this to the licensees – if they think we are being emotive or activist about changing the status quo, they should come to some of the funerals out bush and then they would understand why, let alone to funerals at the Alice Springs cemetery from the non-Aboriginal part of town. "It's not as extreme but I know many town residents who have died from the bottle just as surely as Aboriginal people do. "As this report says, it's an Alice Springs problem, not a black problem, it's for every household to deal with. "That's the basis of motivating the town to take some action now."
GROG SURVEY: WHO GAVE THE ANSWERS? Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Who are the respondents to the Alcohol in Alice community survey, the results of which have formed the basis for many of the recommendations of the Hauritz report?While we may not know their exact identities the report tells us quite a lot about them.They reside in every part of Alice Springs, from the Golf Course Estate to Larapinta west, from Gillen and Bradshaw to the Town Camps, as well as in the residential areas outside the Gap.Respondents in each area were randomly selected, allowing for a range of dwelling types.How many were selected from each area depended on the total population of that area. For example, the greatest number come from the northern "suburbs" – 75 out of a population of 5,339 – and the lowest number from the Town Camps – 22 out of a population of 1,500.They are both women and men, but slightly more women (54.79 per cent to 44.96 per cent). Their average age is 40.96 years; 75 per cent are under 49 years of age. Just over 35 per cent have lived in Alice for less than 10 years; nearly 50 (48.89) per cent have lived in Alice for between 10 and 29 years. Half the households have children under 15 years of age living with them; over 80 per cent have one or two children. Just over 15 per cent consider themselves to be of Indigenous descent; and a similar proportion consider themselves to be of ethnic background.Almost 75 per cent identify themselves as non-Indigenous Australians.Just over 70 per cent are employed: 40.55 per cent in business; 9.97 per cent in community service organisations; and 8.59 per cent in education. Two of the 291 employed respondents are liquor licensees; 16 work in the tourism industry.Over half have been breath tested within the last six months, and just over one per cent (or five out of 407) have been fined.
NEXT WEEK: How they see the alcohol problem and how they think it should be fixed.
SEPARATE POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT? TIM ROWSE concludes his comment piece.
Reconciliation: is it about making our existing political and social structures less discriminatory and more inclusive; or is it about recognising Indigenous political development which may lead to separate and distinct political and social structures?Historian TIM ROWSE concludes his series on the reconciliation movement. See Parts One and Two in the July 19 & 26 issues.
I find the absence in the "Roadmap for Reconciliation" (published by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation) of questions of Indigenous political development worrying. By default, the definition of reconciliation is being pushed back to that older kind of liberalism, a liberalism that assumes that the existing institutions of the country are basically adequate; that assumes that the way they need to improve is to become less discriminatory and more inclusive.The thought that you might have to invent some new political institutions, that you might have to invent regional units of government, for instance in the Kimberley, or in Cape York, or in the Torres Strait, where there are nascent institutions of this kind already, that kind of thought is almost becoming inadmissible in the discourse of reconciliation because it can be seen as divisive, as fragmenting the nation. The "Roadmap" is very careful, whenever it mentions the word "self-determination", to say "self-determination within the framework of the Australian state or nation". With that kind of phraseology they are certainly trying to preempt the charge that what they are talking about is divisive. But as a document I find that it isn't very articulate about the necessity and possibility of political development for Indigenous Australians. So that means we are about to enter the 100th anniversary year of federalism without being stimulated by the reconciliation movement to rethink what federalism has meant from the point of view of Indigenous Australians. That is a really important omission. Federalism has been one of the most important structures for settler colonial racism in Australia, as many readers will be aware, even just from the example of how damaging it could have been to Aboriginal interests had the Northern Territory become a state and the Commonwealth legislation around land rights been repatriated to the Northern Territory, as was proposed a couple of years ago.I've argued that you probably can't hope to have a very good national debate about the meanings of reconciliation because the debate basically takes place in an arena defined by the sensibilities of people in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, who are of good will but who don't have very much knowledge about the far-flung and more creative parts of the continuing frontier.However, I think the notion of reconciliation is still worth invoking at the local level, because it could be the kind of ideology that helps junior and middle-ranking bureaucrats in the Northern Territory Government to make some space for dialogue with Aboriginal organisations, as has happened recently. I guess I'm following the arguments that H.C. Coombs used all his life: that the real political innovation in Aboriginal affairs is going to happen at the local, rather than at the central level. The tragedy is that the regions have very limited resources for feeding back to the centre some of the ideas that they have tried out. Another thing about the reconciliation movement which shouldn't be forgotten, is the way that it has acted as a program of civic education, sponsored by the state but taken up enthusiastically by lots local groups, churches and so forth, requiring the participant to think of himself or herself not just as an Australian but as an Australian of one or other kind, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. It has created a sense of the Australian citizen having a colonial heritage; that citizenship isn't just an historically innocent condition.
LETTERS: Jenny Mostran looking for greener pastures?
Sir,- Ratepayers are of course relieved we won't be copping a heftier rates notice.Ald. Mostran has supplied a cheery comment piece (Alice News, July 26) about challenges for fiscal management.Ald Mostran notes council's policy on public benevolent institutions, and how it contributes to a declining rate base. She says that Aboriginal organisations, by applying this policy, are the cause of the problem.Aboriginal organisations, whoever and whatever they may be, are indeed able to claim rate relief by applying the policy correctly to their own circumstances. So, too, are other organisations which legitimately fall into the category of public benevolent institutions, and which have lately sought exemption from rate payments under the policy.These include the Salvation Army, St Mary's Family Services for the Anglican Lodge property in Bath Street, and the Missionaries of Charity in suburban Gillen, to name but a few. Residences of religious representatives have also always been rate exempt. The Council could change this, of course, and slap the land tax back on the manses and the rectories.My point is this: exemption from the rate book is Council policy, and has been used by many groups and institutions outside the Aboriginal sector. Ald Mostran should know this. And if it seems to some readers that, by obtaining front page billing with her comment pieces here and there, she may be seeking a public mandate outside of local government, I would remind her that a by-election costs the ratepayer about $30,000. That equates to quite a few property exemptions. But I'm sure that's the sort of billing she would want to spare the ratepayer.
ED:- The Alice Springs News decides on whether a comment piece gets "front page billing", according to the interest we deem it may have for readers.
Sir,- [In response to T. Bird's letter in last week's Alice News] the report [on alcohol in Alice Springs] is available in the Town Library and provides information about communities which have sought to improve quality of life and reduce alcohol-related violence and harm. Since 1993, many communities across Australia have done this (see http:www/aic.gov.au/avpa/index) as is recognised nationally: some of these communities have received Australian Violence Prevention Awards (1992-1999). Much of this work has been alcohol-related, as alcohol is the single greatest contributor to violence and resulting harm dealt with by families, hospitals, ambulance, police, alcohol support services, church organisations, welfare agencies, health services (government and non-government, State and Commonwealth) and education. From official statistics, some small indication of this harm during 1998-99 for Alice Springs is also given in the report in the library. The cost of alcohol-related harm for Australia as a whole is provided as well. For example, five bed years in one year (1998-99) were used for alcohol-related admissions at the Alice Springs Hospital. This does not include all alcohol-related medical services provided by the hospital in this period. For many Australian communities, the cost of similar harm has been regarded as serious and addressed through a community safety action approach at a local government level. This approach has been highly successful and details are given in the report in the library.
Dr. Marge Hauritz
Author, "Dollars Made from Broken Spirits"
Sir,- After reading the article by Samih Habib (see Alice News, July 19), it left me wondering what his real reason is for being on the town council. Well Samih, before you advocate for a liquor outlet out at Larapinta please let me remind you of the Larapinta residents' outrage at your intention of having a video arcade, as proprietor, in the same area. We didn't want or need a video arcade then and we don't want or need a liquor outlet now. I promise you will get the same reaction. Since you so obviously have a vested interest in having a liquor outlet out here in Larapinta DO NOT use your role as alderman to advocate for one.
Sir,- Regarding Paul McLoughlin's letter of the July 26 issue, may I say: come on Paul, surely you can appreciate the valuable community service that Mr Naismith and his team provided by protecting the more sensitive members of our community from those "Hippies" and their "allusions".Come on "Yobbos", take offence. Get a crayon, have someone dictate and check spelling after scratching a response.
TOURISM: WILL WE BE LACKEYS OR BOSSES? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Will our kids be the bellboys and the chambermaids while the chiefs of Central Australia's tourism industry are making key decisions in Sydney, London or Johannesburg?Will the bulk of profits made from our natural and man-made attractions be repatriated interstate and overseas?And if so, what is the NT Government, via its lavishly funded NT Tourist Commission (NTTC), doing about it?Yes, yes, and not very much are the correct answers, at least on present indications.Since the halcyon days of the Central Australian Tours Association (CATA) under the stewardship of the highly respected Keith Castle, the massive growth of the industry has been marked by a series of spectacular bankruptcies, insol-vencies and receiverships of local operators.These events shifted most major assets into interstate or overseas hands.First NT Chief Minister Paul Everingham's valiant attempt to secure Territory control over our key visitor magnet, Ayers Rock, faltered on the incompetence of the NT bureaucracy: despite a public investment of probably more than $1b (the actual figure is a closely guarded secret), the NT Government failed to make the resort tick.This task was accomplished with apparent ease when private enterprise bought the place four years ago, for the benefit of shareholders principally outside the Territory.CATA was an association of locally owned tourism operations, mainly accommodation houses, hire car people, bush resorts and bus companies. (See also break-out story.)Says seasoned local operator Pat Brennan: "There is no-one with the quality of Keith Castle in town today."We all benefited. "Since Keith left, the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA) has slipped, the Tourist Commission has slipped – in fact [its head office] went to Darwin!"CATIA general manager Craig Catchlove says his organisation represents all members equally, no matter if they are based in the NT or elsewhere.He says in an increasingly global economy, "money going out of town is a fact of life. It's not limited to The Centre."The present system of selling tours clearly has an inbuilt mechanism to make the big guys bigger, and keep the small ones – the Alice Springs owned companies – battling for the crumbs falling off the giants' table.This is how it works: the international tour wholesalers make their money from commissions, a whopping 30 per cent "off the top" – sometimes even more.Clearly, the more the wholesalers sell the more they earn, and that means selling to the big capacity operators who – in turn – are the big nationals and multi-nationals.Companies such as Alice Wanderer and Tailormade Tours are picking up the passengers the big operators can't or won't handle, or "free independent travellers" who remain outside the mass bookings systems.Comments Mr Brennan, of Tailormade Tours, with a total of 160 passenger seats, about block bookings: "The small operators are not involved in that part any more."Liz Martin and Bruce Cotterill, of Alice Wanderer (84 seats), won't use wholesalers at all "because they are too expensive".This is the key question: should the Territory government have a policy of growing the locally owned businesses, or should it continue to aim for numbers, no matter where the profits go?At present the "bums on seats" mentality is wholly embraced by the NTTC and its current Minister, Mike Reed, as a measure of success.For example, Mr Reed, in a media release on May 24, gloated about 1999 NT visitor numbers being up three per cent, visitor nights growing by one per cent and expenditure "jumping" eight per cent, "generating nearly $800 million for the NT economy".There is no analysis of how much of this money stayed in the NT, nor in what way – if any – it contributed to the prosperity of Territorians, the people to whom Mr Reed is answerable.In fact, the NTTC could not provide any details about how much of the tourism "spend" leaves the Territory.Andrew Clark, the commission's general manager – marketing, says: "Private companies do not divulge their annual financial records, so any estimate would be, at best, little better than a wild guess."I have to point out that these [outside companies] employ locals, pay the same taxes, bring clients to local shops, attractions and restaurants."Both types of operators are very important to the mix of product available to the different consumers."The NTTC has a whopping budget of $28m, in line with the budgets tourist commissions are receiving in other states, despite the NT's minuscule population. (The Australian average expenditure on state tourist commissions is $12 per head. The corresponding figure for the Territory is $155.)Yet there appears to be no policy within the NTTC to apply its financial muscle in a way that would create deliberate advantages for Territory owned operations: is a temporary boost in numbers more important than a strong and growing local industry? Can't the big guys look after their own promotions? Aren't we generous enough as it is, allowing them to access our natural wonders, serviced by taxpayer-funded infrastructure? Would it not be desirable to spend the Territory government's millions in support of Territorians rather than in aid of multi-nationals?One stock answer is that the big guys' promotions stretch the Territory's advertising dollar: for example, an airline or bus company allowed to put a "tag" on a TV spot featuring Uluru will pay part of the air time costs.It would be interesting to have independently examined who gets the greatest benefit from that: how big, if any, is the flow-on to Territory businesses? As a result of advertising such as this, are our icons, in the minds of the global consumers, becoming linked with big, multi- national companies?Do we create a perception that you have to fly with airline X or bus it with company Y to see Uluru?Far from alleviating the hurt which the big wholesalers are inflicting on The Centre's small operators, the NTTC is joining the fray: operators have just been informed that as from April 1 next year, its marketing arm will be raising its commission from 20 to 25 per cent.In fact, the whole industry is a merry-go-round of commissions, with little or no regard to the quality of the service, says "one man band", Neil Tapscott, of NT Luxury Day Tours (12 seats).If you want to operate from the Ayers Rock Resort you're up for around 16 per cent.The Uluru National Park will be increasing its tour operators' fee on February 1 by 1000 per cent (from $50 to $500), says Mr Tapscott."I would like to think agents sold an operator's product on its merits, not by the amount of commissions they receive," he says."If we all paid the same amount of commission this may occur."It's difficult to keep prices down when commissions go up."Because they're not paying the larger commissions, smaller operators will always lose out."Mr Tapscott says local hotels and motels mostly charge 10 per cent; tour agents usually 15 per cent and wholesalers, who in turn have obligations to other agents, from 25 per cent upwards.That's a big slice out of the $195 Mr Tapscott charges for a full-day tour to The Rock, or the $155 for a trip to Rainbow Valley and Chamber's Pillar, for example.He says some Alice Springs hotels are now "going away from that scenario and support local operators," but by and large, " everything comes down to dollars and cents"."It's the product that's suffering," says Mr Tapscott."Morning teas are not served on a tour nowadays, little things like that."The customers wouldn't know any different but the staff would."Mr Tapscott says he has fond memories of his seven years as a driver and guide with AAT Kings, before its take-over by an offshore company, starting in the year when Mr Castle retired as the manager of AAT King's predecessor, CATA. The one bright light on the horizon for the battlers is the internet: the ubiquitous click of the mouse can bypass the wholesaler, the booking agent, the outstretched hand for commissions, and the travel advisor motivated by fees. WEB SITESMost local operators have web sites. Mr Cotterill says his company gets around two per cent of its bookings from the net, but this form of trade "is building".Mr Brennan isn't sure: "The girls in the office would know," he says.Mr Tapscott says he's getting "next to nothing" from the net at the moment "but it's clearly the way of the future"."People are getting a little wiser. "They want to get information about their travel by their own means," says Mr Tapscott.Ren Kelly's VIP group (900 seats) and Angie and Peter Reidy's Sahara Tours (415 seats) show clearly that home-grown companies "can do it" – albeit that both use European wholesalers to great effect.What the locals seem to be needing now are some friends in high places who turn the tax dollar to their benefit – and this may well be on its way.Mr Catchlove says the NTTC is putting the finishing touches on a scheme of supporting local operators the commission deems ready to break into the national market, similar to the international system in place for the past two or three years, by facilitating trips to trade shows, meeting wholesalers, and in other ways.The scheme would support a group of eight or 10 Territory operators at a time, for "a year or two" after which they would be on their own.Mr Clark says a similar scheme has been operated by the NTTC for some time.He says: "For example, the introduction of Territory Discoveries as a wholesaler, was to allow the smaller NT operators the chance to access the traditional distribution system and reach relevant consumer segments."To date, Territory Discoveries have introduced twice as many NT products, around 150, into their brochures than any other domestic wholesaler."There are a range of other cooperative marketing opportunities that allow small operators to access NTTC funding, both in the domestic and international markets," says Mr Clark."The international traffic and yield into the NT has been growing consistently faster than the overall traffic / yield into Australia."Over the last two years, the interstate markets have increased by around 14 per cent [compared to the] national trend of one to two per cent per annum."The commission's 2000 to 2005 Master Plan released recently has a few more bright spots for The Centre.It advocates a Desert Ranges National Park extending from Finke Gorge to Uluru, incorporating King's Canyon, Lake Amadeus and Aboriginal-owned Tempe Downs.It says a Greater MacDonnell Ranges National Park should be extended to the east of Alice Springs.(Neither of these proposals are new, however: they were put forward in the Northern Territory Parks Masterplan published in October, 1998.)About the Ayers Rock Resort the report says – somewhat cryptically – that the resort "does not cater for all travel markets"."Opportunities certainly exist for additional accommodation facilities in the general area."The surrounding desert landscapes offer an ideal setting in which to create a low key visitor complex offering family cabins, caravan park sites and facilities for coach groups."The report does not make it clear whether it is talking about land within the 100 square kilometers owned by the resort, or Aboriginal land surrounding it, or the Aboriginal-owned national park itself.The report says new "experimental accommodation in the form of wilderness lodges and retreats and safari camps" has been suggested for national parks for exploring "natural plant remedies, bush walking, bird watching, star-gazing, story- telling and art".The parks could also have sky rails, chair lifts, rock climbing, abseiling, entertaining and dining.By far the greatest preference of parks visitors is for " Aboriginal culture / information", the report says, urging encouragement of "Aboriginal people to become involved with tourism ... by sharing their vibrant culture with interested visitors".In Alice Springs we should be "developing the Todd and Charles Rivers as community areas" while "improving the quality of life by addressing anti-social behaviour".Somewhat belatedly, for Alice Springs at least, the master plan recommends the "preservation of historical buildings in all centres" and "enhancing historical precincts".
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