ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
September 19, 2001.



REPEAT OF PILOTS DISPUTE FIASCO? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The local tourism industry is facing the loss of up to 30 per cent of its business in the wake of the Ansett collapse and the terrorist attacks in the USA. This is the view of CATIA chairperson Cate Moodie who says the disasters may throw the town back into a slump similar to the 10 month long pilots' dispute which started in September 1989. She says even if Qantas and Virgin airlines take on regional routes, most holiday makers booked on Ansett won't take a holiday now until next year: "Their holiday money is gone, they won't book again this year. It'll be 12 months until they can start another holiday." According to the NT Tourist Commission, during 2000 "commercial accommodation visitors" to Central Australia, including Ayers Rock, spent $325.2m. Nearly three quarters travelled by air (72 per cent), two thirds of them flying Qantas. Self drive visitors made up 17 per cent, and seven per cent came by coach. Ms Moodie says practically every local business is affected by the slowdown: "People may be leaving town. "We don't want that to happen." The Alice News was unable to get a statement from Ansett about the fate of its 46 employees in Alice Springs, but we understand that by early this week they had not been informed that they were laid off, and they were on "stand by". Ms Moodie says local operators are now facing the agonising task of formulating cancellation policies, whether or not to refund deposits. They have to weigh up their financial losses against the good will they create by showing kindness to their customers. Ms Moodie says practically all overseas tourists are travelling to the Centre by air. Cancellations came in very soon after the New York and Washington terror attacks, not only from the USA but also from Japanese and European tourists, even before the Ansett collapse. Both disasters are occurring at the height of the season for international visitation. Ms Moodie says CATIA is trying to talk up the industry, but it's hard: there is limited scope for travel within the Territory, "people seeing the attractions in their own regions". And the "Free Independent Travellers" usually driving are discouraged by high fuel prices. Tourism in Central Australia, including Ayers Rock, is worth $173m a year.

ANSETT CRASH: SAVAGE SLUG BUT THEY'RE HANGING IN! Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

In the worst case scenario, the collapse of Ansett could cost the Ayers Rock Resort $5m to $7m by the end of this year, more than a quarter of turnover.But for now occupancy has been maintained and no staff have been laid off. The resort's annual turnover is around $120m. It has 520 direct employees, and close to 600 contractors and concession operators.Speaking to the Alice News on Monday,Grant Hunt, CEO of Voyages Hotels which manages the resort, said his company's focus is fighting the "savage slug" by "replacing capacity into the Rock".They are talking to Qantas about increasing its services even before the collapse, it was the bigger carrier, with 56 per cent of traffic and to Virgin Blue about taking up the Rock as a new destination. Mr Hunt said these talks were looking very positive. He was also hopeful that if Ansett were to resume partial operations, the route to Ayers Rock would be included."It is one of the most viable routes in Australia, with year round high demand," said Mr Hunt. The company is also trying to stimulate coach and hire car companies into offering "point to point packages". Already, half of visitors to the Rock arrive at the resort by road. Most freight into the resort also comes by road. The last stranded Ansett passengers were uplifted on Sunday, so for the time being "things are back to normal", said Mr Hunt. However, he expects "savage disruption" to visitation from the USA following last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The US is one of the resort's major markets, bringing in 12 per cent of its business. Mr Hunt said he expects a loss of at least half of that business over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, Renton Kelly, director of the long-standing independent tour company at the Rock, VIP Tours, says, despite being left with a "very large debt to carry", his company will be able to weather the Ansett collapse.VIP had been Ansett's agent at the Rock and, ironically, were in the final stages of negotiating a new contractual arrangement with Ansett to continue to provide "at Ayers Rock and other ports all airside, tarmac services, aircraft cleaning and ramp operations plus all terminal services, holiday travel, customers service, flight management and other services".Mr Kelly, on a sales trip in Europe when he heard of the collapse, has assured all staff employed by VIP as the operating agents for Ansett, that they would be found positions within VIP, or found other solutions to their immediate future employment. One permanent member of staff and three casual staff have elected to leave."VIP has the financial capacity to meet this challenge and our 27 years of business experience will stand us in good stead as we continue to grow our business," wrote Mr Kelly in an emailed memo, which he made available to the Alice News.He said a rapid company restructure would maximise the efficiency of all departments, and put additional manpower into their Darwin and Alice Springs offices and depots. "Importantly, in addition to meeting our current needs this restructure has enabled us to maintain the core management and supervisory skills of airport, airline and passenger service management. "I don't have a crystal ball to predict that another airline carrier will start operations into Ayers Rock and other ports in the Northern Territory, however if this was to happen VIP will be there to offer our services at a competitive cost to any current or new airline operator." Mr Kelly also wrote of the trauma and devastation caused by the terrorist attacks in the USA:"Today I was in Lyon in France making sales calls to the French travel companies and the whole city of over one million people stopped for three minutes silence as a mark of respect for those who were killed in the USA. "It is a very moving occasion when a busy city comes to a stop and there is an almost total silence." Regarding the impact of the attacks on the travel industry, Mr Kelly said his talks with wholesale travel sales companies had led him to believe that travel to Australia will not be affected in the long term "unless there are further terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world or complications with the anticipated retaliation by the USA"."There may be some short term drop off in the number of visitors to Australia but the end result may be that Australia, seen as one of the few safe travel destinations in the world, will benefit from the circumstance of the plight of the USA," said Mr Kelly.VIP's portfolio of specialised bilingual tours for Japanese, Italian, German, French, and Spanish-speaking visitors would give the company some degree of stability in face of a likely downturn in visitation from the USA.

BUDGET FIASCO: CLP POLLIES FACE SACK. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Former CLP Ministers, including former Treasurer Mike Reed, may have to answer charges of misleading Parliament before its Privileges Committee which has the power of sacking MLAs, according to Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne. He says this follows the discovery of a $107m "black hole" some three per cent of the 2001-2002 Budget, handed down by the CLP Government before its defeat in the August 18 election. The shortfall is likely to lead to the postponement of major projects in Alice Springs, including the Desert People's Knowledge Centre. Dr Toyne said before the election that the centre, planned on a large block on the South Stuart Highway, adjacent to the "arid zone" complex, would be where most of a Labor Government''s $30m education endowment would initially go. He said: "Funding [under the Labor plan] is immediate through the $10m that comes from the NT budget. "We have understandings with the Federal Government for an additional $25m once the Labor Government is elected in Cara and we're pretty certain they will be." (Alice News, August 15.) However, last week he said: "We'll do our level best to deliver the $10m in this [four year] term of the Labor government." And Chief Minister Clare Martin, in Alice Springs last week, said her government would now investigate "how to move Alice in Ten from the incredibly good ideas we have seen, to actually get some outcomes." However, she too made no commitment to a time frame for the centre. Meanwhile Opposition Leader Denis Burke says if Labor is short of money it should scrap $80m plans for underground power in two Darwin suburbs. Ms Martin's and Dr Toyne's comments followed an investigation of recent Budgets by Professor Percy Allan AM. He says he found major blow-outs during the Burke Government when the interest bill for loans rose to $500,000 a day, despite funding from Canberra at a level five times greater per head of population when compared to the rest of the nation. Prof Allan, a NSW academic and adviser to past Labor and Liberal Federal governments, said: "Over the last four years the annual deficit has averaged $70m, peaking at $114m in 2000-01. "The situation particularly deteriorated between 1998-99 and 2000- 01 when total expenditure rose $202m yet total revenue went up only $103m. "Little or no effort was made to contain the ballooning deficit in 1999-00 and 2000-01." Ms Martin, who forecast "tough times ahead", says the deficit is nine times greater than stated by the former CLP government. A one-off injection of $50m, from the sale of the government's fleet of cars, was something Mr Burke had "pulled out of his back pocket". "It had no economic credibility," says Ms Martin. "There was no analysis done whether it was e.ven viable to sell the fleet under [the] newer tax arrangements. "Treasury would not have recommended that it went ahead. We have had a corruption of the way budget processes should be done." Ms Martin says past NT Budgets had been political statements. She said, as recommended by Prof Allen, the Labor Government would adopt a Fiscal Integrity and Transparency Act ensuring that Budgets are based on Treasury (not political) estimates; disclose all assumptions behind those estimates; are confined to the general government sector; and are prepared on a Uniform Presentation Framework "as agreed by all governments". Mr Burke says: "The new Government has betrayed Territorians. It wanted its consultant to create a black hole so it could blame others."The CLP Government's plan to sell its $50 million 3fleet was formulated with NT Treasury and the new Labor Government has dismissed this plan so it could come up with a black hole. "The new Labor Government has made up the rest of its black hole by saying one-off expenditures such as the Katherine floods, repairs to essential roads due to floods, East Timor Crisis, railway infrastructure, special gas infrastructure and so on, should be included in final consumption. "The reality is there is no black hole, there is no missing $100 million. "As the spokesman for Australia's Institute of Public Affairs, Mike Nahan said: This is a political ploy.' "Labor could go a long way to fulfilling its commitments to the people of Alice Springs by scrapping its $80 million plan to provide underground power in the two Darwin suburbs of Nightcliff and Rapid Creek."

LIFE'S LESSONS IN THE SNOW. Report by STEPHANIE HARRISON.

The other night at dinner, Tang, our Indian exchange student said to me: "For every single grain of rice you leave on your plate, that'll be one less grain in your next life." That got me thinking about my recent school camp at Mittagundi Outdoor Education Centre in Victoria, and about one night's dinner in particular polenta pizza. I was having a bit of a hard time finishing off my polenta base (you had to eat everything on your plate) so I squished it into a ball in my hand and took my empty plate up to Colleen, one of the Mittagundi group leaders. As I was walking away feeling awfully proud of myself, one of the teachers jokingly told me to show him my hands. I quickly shoved the polenta ball in my pocket and showed him my palms. Then, one of my friends thought it would be really funny to start hitting my pocket and warned me that Colleen was coming to check on me because she'd heard I hadn't eaten all my dinner. All I could do was put the ball in my mouth, swallow (with a big gulp of water) and put on my best innocent face. I got away with it, but every night after that, I made sure I ate all my dinner. There is hope for me in the next life yet! Mittagundi is a farm about eight hours' drive northeast of Melbourne in the Bogong High Plains. It was first established about 20 years ago by a man called Ian Stapleton who was an Outdoor Education teacher at Geelong Grammar. He wanted to make an Outdoor Education centre for people who couldn't afford to go to places such as their Timbertop camp. The name Mittagundi is a Koori word that means camp by the river. It is run by people who volunteer to spend a year at the farm, working almost for free. That's one of the amazing things I found about Mittagundi, the leaders are there because they want to be and they live there for a whole year (the coordinators live there for three years). I think that's pretty dedicated. Courses are run summer and winter for school groups from all over Australia. Our group consisted of 18 Year 10 students and two teachers from St Philip's College (as a part of a larger group of 55 students and five staff members). We spent 10 days there going on cross-country skiing and hiking trips. It was an awesome experience for me. I learned a lot about myself, and how I perceive people and things around me. I learnt that there is more to people than meets the eye you can't judge a person you don't know by their reputation or things you've heard about them. Our Mittagundi leaders Kate and Colleen showed me how to appreciate the environment and not to take for granted things like electricity. I spoke to some of the other people in my group about what they learnt while at Mittagundi. Robert said, "I learnt a lot about friendship by being put into a situation where I was around these people non stop for 10 days."Nicole said, "It was a totally different environment and it was very new to me. I learnt a lot about working in a group". "Our group achieved a lot it was great doing things together," said Tang who had come to our school as an exchange student from India and participated in the camp. Personally, I built new relationships with the other members of my group, who were mostly people from school I normally didn't mix with. Now that we're back at school, we still talk to each other a lot. Even though everyone is back in their own friendship groups, we still remember all the fun we had at Mittagundi, getting to know each other better. Right from the start we began working as a team, which was really important because it meant that we were a lot happier as a group and we got all our jobs done really quickly. At Mittagundi there is no electricity and hence no television, so we entertained ourselves!! We all sat around the fire in the dining room playing the guitar and we sang while hiking and doing the dishes. We were fortunate enough to have Markus in our group who could remember almost every single word from the Monty Python movies. This provided us with hours of entertainment and laughs. Nicole said, We'll keep [the friends we made] for a long time to come''. We all had to do the washing up, which turned out to be one of the best jobs because it meant sticking your cold hands in really hot water. Everything that is on the farm there has either been made there by students (like the log cabins that we slept in), or donated (like the metal anvils in the work shed). The cabins were only used for sleeping in and it was the best feeling diving into your sleeping bag at night because it meant warmth and comfort! Without electricity, we had to rely on torches. Mine was as good as useless, so night vision came in handy. Not fun! I think I could manage to live without electricity permanently but I don't think I would like it very much. I like to be able to see what I'm doing! We only ate meat once while we were at Mittagundi and that was about one cubic millimetre of beef in each of our bowls of soup. They raise their own meat and have it butchered for them. It's tough when you go away for three days and come back to an empty pigpen it's even tougher for the pigs! I personally didn't miss my meat because at home, I don't usually eat that much meat anyway. However, for some others, it was a different story. "I had cravings for steak although the vegetarian food was all right," said Robert. "It was nice to know where the meat came from and that it wasn't processed," Nicole added. "The food was excellent! We got used to the porridge [which we had every morning] and the vegetarian food was very substantial and healthy," said Tang. Annabelle and Jerome from Mittagundi did most of the cooking for us, but some nights a few of us helped with the cooking and it was good to sit down to something that you cooked yourself (except of course if it happened to be Polenta Pizza!!!). Towards the end of our camp we had two working days where we all helped around the farm doing various jobs like milking the cows, cooking, working in the garden and helping to build the new rafting shed. The best job for me was the shed because it made me feel good knowing that even though we only did a little bit of it, we were helping to make something that future camp groups would be able to use. Nicole felt the same way about it! Tang said: "The leaders told us that everyone leaves something of themselves behind, and thinking about that made me feel good." Four of our 10 nights on camp were spent away from the farm. We spent two nights at Mac-Namara's Hut, a few kilometres away on a hiking trail, and two nights camping in snow tents at Fitzgerald's Hut, which was a former camp for cattlemen. At both huts we spent a day skiing, well, trying to ski! I think we all had our fair share of falls and most of us ended up going down the hills on our bums. Even those who had been skiing before fell over a few times! "Skiing isn't as easy as it looks on James Bond movies!" said Nicole. "It's hard and it hurts!! But I loved it all the same. It wasn't too embarrassing falling over because you knew that everyone else was!" Robert said he found skiing "pretty easy". We were all really excited on our first day of skiing when it started snowing lightly for about five seconds. Then it turned to drizzle. But still, it was snow! Although we didn't get as much snow as previous years, it was the first time in my life I'd seen (and eaten) snow. It was also the first time for many of our group. Tang had thought snow was "more fluffy and fun but it was actually freezing!!" And as for the skiing, for Tang it was "the worst experience of my life!! I kept on falling over which hurt my ankles." I can't write exactly how I feel about Mittagundi because it's something that I just can't seem to find the right words for ... it was amazing, fantastic, awesome and great for all of us.

COMMUNITY FOOTBALL PUSHING TO JOIN THE MAIN RULES GAME!

Western Aranda, after tasting the despair of losing grand finals in recent years, captured a premiership flag in the Country League competition on Saturday, by defeating McDonnell Districts by 30 points, 16.5 (101) to 11.5 (71).Aptly Clinton Ngalkin was voted best player for Western Aranda, as he was the recipient of the League's Best and Fairest medal for the season.The Bulldogs produced a withering burst in the third term to score 6.3 to a solitary point and take control of the game. Until half time the match had been evenly poised. McDonnell Districts gave their supporters heart early when they set up a 3.1 to 2.0 first quarter lead. However Western Aranda balanced the scales in the second term and led seven straight goals to 5.5 at the big break. After their explosive third term the Bulldogs were able to withstand the McDonnell Districts surge of six goals to three in the last term and so win the match.Martin Patrick led the Bulldogs' goal scoring charge with six, and three goals a piece were bagged by Calvin Williams and Glen Pareroultja. Others to excel for Western Aranda were Oliver Wheeler, Shaun Cusack, Martin Petrick and Raphael Impu.Matthew Browne headed the McDonnell Districts best players, accompanied by Ali Satour, Trevor Marshall, Stanley Roberts and Darryl Corby.The huge crowd took advantage of the ideal conditions at Traeger Park to also see the Ti Tree colts win their premiership over Rodinga Eagles, 8.9 (57) to 5.14 (44). During the summer, down Santa Teresa way, no doubt there will be plenty of goal kicking practise taking place.And throughout the bush, footy will soon resume with summer competitions.For the Ngurratjuta people there will be action beyond the playing fields as they are talking seriously about entering a club of their own in the CAFL. Sid Anderson, a stalwart from Papunya, has already mentioned the idea to Gus Williams at Hermannsburg, and over the next few weeks Sid intends talking more about creating an opportunity at the elite level for the Ngurratjuta.The communities from Areyonga, Ipolera, Hermannsburg, Haasts Bluff, Mt Liebig, Kintore, Mt Allen and Papunya form the basis of this football loving community.Already in the CAFL, Rovers and Souths have key players from this western district playing for them, and Sid realises well that the area has been a healthy recruiting ground for CAFL players in the past. By having a community side in the CAFL, Sid believes that young players will have pride in playing for their own people. Rather than playing in the shadow with an already established CAFL side, he believes Ngurratjuta players will play for their own club and so foster more young players to fulfil their potential. The drive for communities to seek representation at the top level is not new. A few years ago Santa Teresa made a similar bid. More recently Western Aranda have also mounted a charge. But this time things may well be more professional.Sid Anderson has the oil and gas operators in the western desert ear marked as possible sponsors. In terms of administration he has experience within his ranks. His sister Alison, a true statesperson, and would see that the club would have all the required backing needed. With the strength of allied communities the club would well be able to hold itself in contention within the CAFL.From a CAFL perspective it is obvious that the future of the League is with the amalgamation of the Saturday and Sunday competitions. If the CAFL were to grow into a two day contest of a weekend, with 10 or 12 teams in the run for a premiership, the game would only be better.Presently five teams face each other of a Sunday for some four encounters against each other over the season. Often the result is a lay down misere, and finals have also almost become a formality. Why not go with the flow and try something that involves more people loving the game of football and playing at Traeger Park!

FROM LACE AND PASTELS TO FURNITURE. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.

Works ranging from a map of Australia by members of the Central Australian Lace Makers to a timber and steel lamp and table by Liam McNally, are on show in Whichcraft, the annual members' exhibition at the Territory Craft Gallery.All members, whether full time, part time or recreational craftspeople, were encouraged to exhibit, as were participants in any of Territory Craft's numerous and varied workshops. Even young people from the school holiday programs were invited to enter items. Exhibitors include grandmother, long-time Territory Craft member Julie Heller, and her grandchildren, Jackie and Rachel. Julie has entered a cushion and embroidery, while Jackie and Rachel are showing their silk paintings. The lace map of Australia, entitled Celebration of Federation, showcases a variety of lacemaking styles and fine detail. The Central Australian Lace Makers meets at Territory Craft on the second (10am-3pm) and fourth Saturday (1pm-3pm) of each month. During much of this year, they have been seen demonstrating their knowledge at numerous community events including Heritage Week (at the Telegraph Station) and the Old Timers Fete. Many people have stopped to watch the lace makers at work and to ask questions about the skill and patience required.Visitors and new members are welcome to join the Lace Makers at any time. Members will be glad to get an interested person started on a bobbin, crochet, or tatted lace. Also exhibiting work is Central Australian artist Adrienne Matthews with her "Portrait of Dawn", the culmination of a pastel workshop with Maxine Thompson from Queensland which Adrienne took a few months ago. "The two-day workshop introduced us to new methods of doing portraits and using pastels including using a calculator," Adrienne said. "Maxine's approach was a more disciplined method than the freestyle method I tend to use. "It is important for artists to become aware of different techniques and broaden their knowledge. "And it is important for people to keep on learning." Territory Craft expects Maxine to conduct another workshop here next year. Expressions of Interest for next year's Alice Craft Acquisition are now being sought with a 14 November 2001 deadline for forms, slides, and artist profile. As there is a special grant from the NT Government for the purchase of work from the NT, Territorians are particularly encouraged to apply. Showing through Sunday, September 23 . The Territory Craft Gallery is located on Larapinta Drive adjacent to Araluen.

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