ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
March 26, 2003.


$20,000 HOUSING BLOCKS? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

New housing blocks at the western end of Alice Springs could come on to the market for little more than $20,000 if the NT Government chose to forego any profits and sold them at just the cost of development.
Meanwhile Alice Springs native title holders are forming a joint venture partnership with an engineering company to create their 30 residential blocks in the Larapinta Valley, opposite the Desert Park.
These blocks, and 30 more to be developed by the government, are the result of a landmark deal between the local native title organisation Lhere Artepe and the government (Alice News, March 12).
Lhere Artepe, with first choice of one half of the 20 hectares to be developed, is likely to opt for the flatter portion along Larapinta Drive, where facilities can be established more cheaply.
The agreement also provides for the government not to sell any blocks until Lhere Artepe has turned off all of its stock.
This land is likely to come on the market early next year, relieving a critical shortage of residential land for some years.
A source close to Lhere Artepe says the joint venture will raise private finance for the engineering works – roads, drainage, water, sewerage and electricity.
The source says the Aboriginal owned blocks are likely to be sold for around $65,000 – roughly the going market price for land at the western extremity of the town – making it a $2m project.
When the time comes to selling its land the government will face the tantalising question about how much to charge for it.
Local development costs per block, according to Will Cormack, senior engineer for Acer Forester Consulting Engineers, are about $20,000.
In Larapinta there is likely to be an extra cost for the proposed 60 blocks because the terrain is hilly and in parts, rocky.
Mr Cormack says he has calculated the average development costs by analysing six subdivisions, built between 1994 and 1998, and ranging from 20 to 50 lots.
The $20,000 cost per block – which of course does not include the price of the land – was for "infill" developments in relatively flat country and with headworks in place.
The construction costs for services – roads, drainage, water, power and sewerage – varied between $10,000 and $30,000 per block.
The headworks (water, power and sewerage mains) already go to the edge of the proposed new Larapinta development.
Lands Minister Kon Vatskalis says it will not be clear whether these services need to be upgraded until an engineering report about the site is completed.
Clearly, the $20,000 average per block includes a margin of profit for the engineering firm doing the development work.
There are a number of options before Mr Vatskalis, who says the government will seek expressions of interest from developers to buy the land.
Firstly, he could accept the lowest offer, which logically would be around $20,000 per block – the demonstrated cost for developing the land: first home buyers would be eternally grateful.
Secondly, he could accept the highest offer, which means the government would make a healthy profit, and the first home buyers would be no better off than they are now. The massive propaganda around the native title deal, opening up cheap land, would be no more than hot air.
Thirdly, Mr Vatskalis could accept an offer somewhere in between.
All three scenarios will raise to a varying degree delicate questions of upsetting land values in the town, driven sky high, to levels matched only in Sydney, by the protracted shortage.
Says Mr Vatskalis: "I will make up my mind when the offers are before me."
Selling housing land in Alice Springs for just the engineering costs was the policy of the Commonwealth administration in the ‘seventies, prior to self-government in the Territory.
MLA for MacDonnell John Elferink (CLP) says the government should keep its nose out of the real estate business – but it's hard to see how it can, given the realities of dealing with Crown Land the government owns, and the imperative to do something with it in collaboration with native title holders.
"There is a whole development industry in the town," says Mr Elferink.
"How many people would be sent broke if the government acted as a developer?"
Mr Vatskalis says more details of the subdivision, including the size of the blocks, will be known when an engineering report is completed.
The agreement to give Lhere Artepe first choice of the land, and the right to sell first, were simply part of the deal, he says, the first in Australia over municipal land on which the Federal Court had found native title to exist.
The source says the Larapinta development will benefit the Mbantua group which may may soon open up land – as many as 1000 blocks – south of the golf course.And Lhere Artepe's Undoolya and Bond Springs clans are also likely to release land.



OUR MAYOR'S MANY HATS. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Is Mayor Fran Kilgariff wearing too many hats?
As she sees it, at the moment she is wearing the following head gear:
• That of the mayor, speaking the mayor's mind on subjects that are not "controversial".
• That of the mayor, speaking the council's mind on "controversial" subjects even though it may be the opposite of her mind as an individual.
• The hat of her as an individual speaking her own mind even if that is in conflict with the view of the council she is leading – or meant to be leading – and for which, in her view, she is obliged to be the public voice.
• And soon, if the ubiquitous "usually reliable sources" can be believed, she may be adding a further hat, that of the Labor Party candidate for Greatorex.
Let me hastily add that Ms Kilgariff says she has entered into no commitments. Will she stand for Mayor again next year? She hasn't made up her mind yet.
The public would be excused if they were suffering from a serious bout of confusion.
Who is the attractive and articulate woman with the impeccable political pedigree (her father, Bernie Kilgariff, retired Senator, the undisputed doyen of Territory politics, is one of the founders of the Country Liberal Party), well dressed and charming?
Is she the organ of a split council with the conservatives having a six to five majority, telling a TV interviewer that Pine Gap is just fine because it's good for business?
Or is she a passionate activist, conveniently forgetting the military role of Pine Gap, and telling a peace rally that the war against Iraq without UN approval is bad?
Which Fran Kilgariff will the people vote for in next year's council election – someone parroting council decisions she doesn't believe in, or a woman with the courage of her convictions?
At a time in history when all good men and women are called upon to stand up and be counted, will the voters get their brains around concepts like this: "In one role I speak for myself and in the other role I speak on behalf of the council.
"I do speak my mind as the Mayor, without reference back to the council.
"I do it on all sorts of issues.
"But when it is a controversial issue, I think it would be foolish to make an issue on behalf of the council, and make statements on behalf of the council that they don't agree with."
Like it or not, "controversial" issues are with us right now, and occupy almost our every waking minute.
So don't expect her to take an independent stance on major issues, although that's not likely to inspire confidence in her leadership.
Says Ms Kilgariff or should I say the Mayor: "I believe very strongly in following my conscience and by speaking at that rally I was doing that.
"[The role of the Mayor] is not to incite disagreement within the council, it is not to be controversial.
"I also have a responsibility of speaking for the people of Alice Springs.
"They see I have a strong personal view about the war but I do not let that flow over into the job."
She says more people in Alice Springs are against the war when compared to the now roughly even split across the nation.
Would that not give her a mandate to represent the majority view? "No, it wouldn't.
"The role of Mayor should not be causing conflict or splits in the community.
"The role of Mayor should be to promote community cohesion."
Take Pine Gap.
Ms Kilgariff says there have been two council motions in support of the US base.
But she concedes they were passed before the war on Iraq, before the first war ever conducted by Australia without bipartisan support, and before Australia's first war of aggression, illegal in the view of many international law experts.
It's also a war in which Pine Gap, hosted by the town of Alice Springs, in all probability is playing a far more significant role than all of Australia's armed forces combined, their undisputed professionalism and courage notwithstanding.
It may be a measure of the council's relevance that it hasn't reviewed its position on Pine Gap in the light of current events.
Ms Kilgariff's bizarre argument goes as follows:
The council has not adopted a view on the Iraq war.
Therefore as Mayor she doesn't have a view on the Iraq war.
As a private person she does.
She was asked by the peace movement to speak to the rally because she is, well, the Mayor: "I get asked, I suppose, because I am a well known person, and the Mayor, yes, but I made it clear that I was not speaking as the Mayor."
And so it goes on.
Yet the situation is perfectly simple: The Mayor of Alice Springs is elected in a poll separate from the poll for aldermen.
The Mayor – unlike Parliamentary party leaders such as the Prime Minister – is not chosen by the party room nor the elected Parliamentarians.
There is a poll for Mayor and one for aldermen, and therefore the Mayor has an independent mandate. It's a power former Alice Mayor Leslie Oldfield used to great effect and with absolute integrity.
The arrangement, in a way, provides a second respectable forum for views, a little like the Senate or an Upper House.
No-one could find fault if Ms Kilgariff were to say: The council's view is this and I respect it, but as your elected Mayor that is what I think.
And this clarity would stand her in good stead if she wants to become the Member for Greatorex.


FOUR DAY PUB BAN STAYED BY REGULATOR.

The Liquor Commission has deferred the immediate four day suspension, handed down last week, of a bottle shop licence so that fresh submissions can be heard.
Greg Boaz, licensee of the Gapview Hotel, says he asked for the deferral because not all relevant evidence had been put before the commission.
The hotel has become the favourite watering hole for hundreds of Aborigines.
Mr Boaz says the patrons themselves had asked for a "clean and safe environment", created partly by enforcing a dress code.
He says the majority of guests keep their distance from the front bar, where the dress code does not apply, and a growing number meet the dress requirements.
The majority of the crowd drinks in the lounge bar and the beer garden where Baden Williams' band – at times with his brother Warren as a guest star – attracts crowds of more than 200 on Thursdays and Fridays.
Mr Boaz says, in order to remove the "temptation to binge", the hotel has discontinued an earlier practice of closing at 2pm.
He says: "The atmosphere is now more relaxed. People don't feel pressured."
The patrons show their appreciation by "the way they treat the premises".
The Liquor Commission suspended the bottle shop license of the hotel for four days from last Friday for a breach of the Liquor Act on July 20 last year, but has now given Mr Boaz seven days to submit new evidence.
The breach involved the separate sales of casks of tawny port to two intoxicated people.
The first was to a pedestrian, tested by police who observed the sale, to have a blood alcohol reading of .385 per cent.
The second, "barely minutes later", was to the driver of a vehicle, who was arrested for "driving under the influence".
A subsequent blood test showed him to have a blood alcohol reading of .249 per cent, five times greater than the legal limit for a driver.
In his decision last Thursday Licensing Commissioner Peter Allen commented that the breaches were "of such gravity, that suspension of the licence for a period far greater than that normally imposed for a first breach is clearly appropriate". Of a mind initially to impose a seven-day suspension, he reduced the penalty to four because of the licensee's "frank and early admission", staff's subsequent training and the absence of further complaints.
Mr Allen also noted the police view that "the premises are now better managed".
Mr Boaz had asked for allowances to be made for "inexperience", as he had acquired the premises only a few weeks before the breaches occurred.However, Mr Allen agreed with police that "inexperience should provide no excuse for breaches of the Act and that the responsibilities of licensees commence immediately upon the grant of a licence".
Mr Boaz also submitted that it's difficult to assess for intoxication people who drive into the bottleshop.
But Mr Allen noted that police were readily able to assess the driver as intoxicated and "bottle shop staff should have fulfilled the licensee's responsibilities in this regard".



PERMITS TO BUY GROG 'MIGHT SLOW PEOPLE DOWN ON DRINKING'.

As in the white community, there are many different points of view about alcohol questions in the Aboriginal community. With the review of current alcohol restrictions looming, KIERAN FINNANE recently set out to talk to some Aboriginal people who drink, some of whose views stand in contrast to those expressed in her interview with residents of Hidden Valley town camp published on March 5.
It was a hot Thursday afternoon.
I was with a friend who was giving a lift home to neighbours of his, Aboriginal people who had just been shopping at Bi-Lo. Some out-of-town relatives were with them. Introductions all round.
My friend explained that I was a journalist doing a story about grog. They nodded, but didn't offer further comment.
During the afternoon they'd been celebrating the birthdays of children in the family. Two cakes for two children, with candles and "Happy Birthday".
Now one of the women asked to stop at the bottleshop.
My friend drove across the road to where we joined a queue.
The drive-through was more than usually busy. Apart from the attendants, there were two blondes in mini-skirts, knee-high boots and low-cut white singlets, with the word "Cougar" printed across their breasts.
One of them leant down to the driver's window.
"Do you drink Cougar bourbon at all?" she asked doubtfully.
"No," we answered.
She nodded.
"It's just that we've got a special on this week."
She moved on.
The other blonde, during a lull, started talking to the dogs in the yard next to the bottleshop. They barked back angrily.
When our turn came, the young woman in the back seat asked for a half-carton of Jim Beam, three casks of port and a small pack of cigarettes.
That set her back $89.20.
We continued to watch the blondes while the attendant got her change.
"You could get a job like that," my friend joked with her.
"No way!" she replied. "My father wouldn't be too happy."
A couple of minutes later we were back in suburban Alice Springs.
"Don't drink all of that in one hit," said my friend, as they got out of the car.
The young woman rolled her eyes at him.
"We don't drink it straight, we mix it with water," she said.
We drove on to visit a couple who had already agreed to talk to me.
They too had just returned from Bi-Lo, in a taxi. They were sitting under a shelter – tin roof shading a bed, a vine growing on one cyclone wire wall. The worst heat had gone from the sun and a south-easterly had picked up. It was quiet in their small camp. Just two families live there, around 20 adults. Occasionally some children stay over.
They don't want me to use their real names or to identify where they live. So I'll call them Linda and Ray.
Linda has a job, on CDEP wages – essentially the equivalent of the dole. She works with young people. It's a job she's had on and off over the years.
She likes it and takes its responsibilities seriously. When it was offered to her again recently, she decided to stop drinking.
"I just didn't feel like drinking any more," she says.
Her husband, Ray, says straight up that he drinks "a lot".
"If there's a tawny port in front of me when I wake up, I'll start from there," he says matter-of-factly.
Does he enjoy it?
"Not really, I've just got the habit of it."
Did he drink port before the restrictions on wine in large casks began?
No. Before he used to drink five litre Moselle.
Has his drinking changed since the restrictions?
"It's still the same. Before we drink Moselle, now it's changed to port wine."
Some people do get drunk quicker, he says, but not him, because he mixes the port with water.
Is drinking a problem in the camp?
"No," says Linda, "it's not a problem because people just go to sleep after they drink. Might be a bit of argument but not serious fighting."
"Not here," says Ray.
An incident years back was caused by a visitor, he says.
Linda is more concerned about the impact of port wine on health.
"I think it makes people sick – diabetes and kidneys and liver," she says.
"In some other camps there might be a lot of violence, but not [here]."
I ask Linda about the impact grog has on the children she works with. She rates it as a "very big problem" for them.
They're not drinking themselves – there are a few sniffing glue – but they are very affected by other people's drinking.
Some kids don't go to school "because they are tired from people making a lot of noise and fighting and that".
"There are some kids that are hungry and don't go to school because they've got nothing in their bellies."
She doesn't see much being done to help and is especially concerned about the closure of Aranda House (a former refuge).
"Since they closed that Aranda House down there are kids everywhere. "When they had that Aranda House going there were kids going back there at night time, and some kids going to school from there in the mornings. But since that's closed down, kids have got nowhere to go back to sleep peaceful or well fed.
"Kids are running away, stopping with somebody else. If other people are drinking there, they get into all kinds of trouble.
"They get in trouble with the police, they get abused."
In her camp Linda's aunty and mother and another very old woman don't drink. All of the other adults drink.
I ask her about the money spent on grog. Does it take up too much money, money that would otherwise be there for food and clothing, other things?
Linda says she doesn't know. After a minute, Ray says: "We have it, money for clothing and food.
"Us two we've got enough, I don't know about the other people around here."
Linda then agrees with him.
There's another couple sitting with us. I'll call them Bruce and Elsie. Bruce, who sports cowboy-style clothing and a flash hat, mentions food vouchers.
Ray explains: "Pensioners, old people, get them in the middle of the week. CDEPs get them on Mondays, from Tangentyere. Food vouchers. That's a thing we get like the old days, rations."
He laughs. He also works for CDEP wages, maintaining the communal laundry in the camp, mowing, cleaning up rubbish.
CDEPHe's waiting for a mower now: the grass is getting taller and taller after the recent rain.
Only one other person in the camp works for CDEP. No one else has a job.
I ask Ray if the drink affects how he does his work?
"No, there's just maybe one box [cask] there, you know. Just doing raking, not dangerous, like with the lawn mower. Just picking up rubbish."
Would he drink if he were doing the mowing?
"It all depends, if they let me know the day and when they bring that thing, I wouldn't drink. I'll wait for them."
If the drink runs out, is it hard for him?
"No, it's okay. I'm not worried. Worried about when you got it in front of you or when somebody brings it to you."
I ask them what they would tell the government if they were asked about the grog situation?
Linda: "I would say it's killing all the people. It's mostly Aboriginal people who end up with kidney problems."
What should the government do about it?
"I don't know. A lot of people have got different views on that."
Ray: "The two of us aren't going to shut the grog down. You'll have to go to all the town camps.
"People might think, oh, they drink like a fish too, what are they talking about." He laughs.
RESTRICTIONSIf people from the government come to ask them should they make the restrictions stronger, what will they say?
Elsie speaks up: "I'll say it's too late. Alcohol has been with us for years now."
Linda and Ray talk about people having licenses to buy grog, like "in the early days".
"That might slow people down on drinking," says Linda. "They could only get one or two a day."
She pauses, then: "Another thing is people coming and living in town. If people are going to live in Alice Springs, they should be working and living in houses, instead of people living in creeks and the top of the hills.
"Those people should go back to their communities. They're in town drinking and getting sick from grog.
"People living in the creek, I'm sure they've got homelands, their own communities, in their own country. They're miles and miles from grog, that's why they come and live in town."
They're keen for me to speak to other people; they make suggestions, people they know who live in what Linda describes as "more of a war zone". We leave with Bruce on board.
On the way we come across a man from Bruce's camp sitting by the side of the road. I'll call him Henry. He's the other man from the camp with a CDEP job.
We stop to pick him up. He's drunk. I've met him before. It was on a Sunday morning and he was drunk then too.
He's the grandfather of one of the birthday children. He talks of her proudly. He's a skilled leatherworker and wants to learn to paint. He doesn't want to talk about the grog.



What Joe Millionaire would find in Central Australia. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

The people of Alice Springs have far more important pastimes than watching reality television.
My own essential pursuits are sweeping my mulch and pulling hairs out of my ears. So let me tell those of you who have been too busy or don't own a TV, what Joe Millionaire is all about and why it has significance to us here in the middle of somewhere else.
This won't take long. Reality TV started with Big Brother. Similarly, Joe Millionaire is a construct, but in this case producers hire a handsome backhoe driver to pretend that he has won $100million.
Then they introduce him to 20 young(ish) women with flicky hair and dresses three sizes too small. Over several weeks, the series follows our Joe as he has a series of candlelit dinners, long walks in the woods and jet-set trips to mock-gothic hotels in exotic locations. Choosing from the women through a process of elimination, he has to find out whom he likes best. This eventually comes down to the best-looking ones. And he also works out who likes him for his biceps and personality rather than his pretend money.
If you are expecting me to sneer at Joe Millionaire, I have to disappoint you. It was good fun and very un-politically correct. Instead, I am telling you this (and I bet 90 per cent of you watched it anyway) because I would like to ponder what would happen if Joe Millionaire were set in Central Australia.
To begin, let's assume that he makes his entrance by riding horseback up to reception at the best hotel in town. Like the mansion scene in the series, the assembled photogenic group are standing in an arc to meet him, but in our case they are squeezed in between the speed bumps and the regulation pool fence whilst trying to get some shade. Smitten by 19 of the women (oh alright then, 20), he then organises a series of opportunities to romance them using the best that Alice Springs has to offer.
A date with the first woman has them wandering hand-in-hand along the banks of the Todd, kicking empty VB cans to each other. Then he takes another candidate for a stroll through the Gap and down to the tip shop, gazing longingly at each other across the discarded galvanised roof sheets. On the way back, they stop for a sniff of Ilparpa Swamp.The private jet arrives and the selected five flirtatious finalists speed off to Tennant Creek for a visit to the sale at Mitre 10. Then it's back to the Alice for a kangaroo tail sandwich and a climb up Anzac Hill, resting at the top to breathe in the best exhaust fumes that the luxury coach trade can muster.
The grand finale features a romantic date at the Telegraph Station on a Sunday, where Joe whispers sweet nothings to his chosen two finalists while dodging small children on the ground and balls of various shapes flying over his head. Looking for a free electric barbie, he decides to go on a diet instead. Meanwhile, the women try to look alluring through the fly net over their heads and zinc cream across their noses.
When Joe finally calls a meeting to announce the winner and therefore the woman who stands to spend the rest of her life with him and a share of his backhoe proceeds, nobody turns up. They all went home for a shower, a face pack and some light relief.
Of all the broadcast media and newspaper coverage sent to us from down south, only a fraction seems to have much direct relevance to the rewards of life in the Centre. I don't buy the Sunday papers any more. Worse still, they major on the kind of lifestyle materialism that seems to belong to another planet. Anyone for a multi-bedded home in NSW with coastal views and a triple garage, only $650,000? No, I didn't think so.
If a millionaire Joe came to town, he might wish for more of the east coast rather than less. So the opposite would be true. Reality would be tougher than reality TV.
afishoutofwater@bigpond.com


'Out of Africa'. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

It occurred to me, as David and I flew from Alice to Perth en route to South Africa a couple of weeks ago, that during my years of travel although I'd perused the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I'd never actually purchased a Lonely Planet Guide to whichever destination I was heading.
This came to mind when I noticed, as we were winging over Uluru, whilst most passengers were aghast at the sheer enormity of our great red monolith, two were busy concentrating instead on their LPs: a good introduction to any country and they ensure that visitors aren't travelling "blind", although on this occasion a couple of our fellow passengers missed the obvious!
I never got lost when I was globe trotting but I probably missed some of the "must sees" en route, taking the more scenic circuitous route, which was fine, because we're told that it's not the destination but the journey that counts.And if the mode of transport is a plane rather than a train or boat or road vehicle, we're reminded as we touch down at some exotic place that we should take care whenever opening up overhead lockers because some luggage may have shifted during the flight – coming into Durban, the air steward asked us to take care because items may have dislodged at take-off, or upon landing or actually during the two hours of flying time from Capetown. All options were covered!
It's amazing to be back in this big beautiful country, Africa. The majority of people seem positive about Nelson Mandela's vision, the winds of change, and Thabo Mbeki, his successor, is attempting to progress the dream of racial harmony and the coming together of this rainbow of nations in the new South Africa. But there are anomalies: I find it confusing – David says it's intriguing, possibly a better phrase to describe what is happening here.
It's one thing to have achieved political liberation, but how to equate it with economic stability? Trying to attract the confidence of international investors is proving to be a slow process and there isn't a "better life for all". It's a sheer numbers game. A new extremely affluent black society has emerged here, but the rich are getting richer and the divide between the haves and the have nots is becoming greater: it's a very small percentage of the 90 per cent of black Africans who are in fact part of this nouveau riche class.
This is especially evident on the streets of Johannesburg, Capetown and Durban. Millions of Africans are pouring into the cities – they are coming from as far away as Zimbabwe, Ghana and Mozambique in search of employment and a better lifestyle. Shanty towns are springing up everywhere and anywhere, on any "spare" piece of land along major highways and in the middle of paddocks. The government is building new dwellings – small brick houses, many of which still do not have the running water or electricity as promised to all South Africans by aspiring politicians. Shacks, built out of every conceivable material, are supposed to be demolished as people are rehoused, but demolition is difficult because as one family moves out, another two move in…
Illegal migrant workers have found a way to beat the system. People cannot work here unless they have citizenship papers: some of the more clever drifters "buy" a local family who, for a monthly stipend, "adopt" the newcomer (this is my son/nephew) so that person is then able to access the papers which employers require. But of course there are hundreds of thousands of people looking for work and no jobs. As David said to friends, second generation Africans, who work at Deloitte's in Jo'burg and live in a walled compound with electronically-controlled wrought iron gates, security bars and grills, guard dogs plus two alarm systems: "Education without opportunity is dangerous".
The crime rate is spiralling out of control, especially in the cities. Many people carry weapons. The national papers' headlines are full of gun battles, hi-jacks, car-jacks, property invasions, rapes and murder. Current statistics show that 76 per cent of prisoners in South Africa are black men between the ages of 25 and 35, and that of these, more than 45 per cent are HIV positive. A frightening state of affairs.
The general opinion is that whilst on the surface the country appears to be economically successful, people believe that efficiencies are slowly evaporating as affirmative action policies take hold, and the brain drain continues as professionals leave the country.A huge problem is relatively hidden here: a visitor to this big beautiful country need not read the headlines or see the seedier side of life in Africa, but the pendulum has swung – the legislative bias is no longer in favour of minority groups. This is in total contrast to our situation in Australia, especially in the Centre, where a problem which affects a minority group is not being adequately addressed due to attitude problems between Indigenous people and non Indigenous people.
The failure to address these problems is now becoming apparent and is beginning to impact on the majority of people who live and work in Alice Springs.
Having said that, as always it's good to be home, sitting in our own backyard reflecting on the highs and lows of a short interlude in the "Dark Continent".



LETTERS: Honest John on Pine Gap.

Sir,- Those of us who watched, listened or read the PM's speech justifying his decision to take Australia into war heard something unusual – Howard being honest.
Well, almost.
In a series of brief references to our "security" relationship with the US and our reliance on "intelligence-sharing" arrangements, Howard told millions of Australians something the anti-bases movement has been trying to tell people about for two decades. We are in this war because of Australia's involvement in the Pine Gap command control and intelligence facility in Alice Springs.
The secret UKUSA intelligence sharing treaty which governs Pine Gap's operations and the operations of a similar UK facility at Menwith Hill – "the ties that bind", as Des Ball called his book on this – lock us into US global military strategy.
They cannot fight wars without it, and we cannot, therefore, "choose" not to fight. Australia's sovereignty and independence is an illusion, for as long as the base and the UKUSA agreement remains.
To bring the troops home is important, but largely symbolic. The real end to Australia's involvement in this and every other future US war will only come when we have an independent national security system, and withdraw from involvement in Pine Gap.
The political party that makes this its program is the only party that can deliver real peace to the 70 per cent of Australians who say they want it. This is an outcome we have to get from this terrible period we have just entered, a national political party committed to this position.Bob Boughton
Armidale (formerly of Alice Springs)
bob.boughton@une.edu.au
Not in our name

Sir,- The Multicul-tural Council of the Northern Territory (MCNT) joins the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils (FECCA) in expressing its extreme concern at Australia's involvement in today's invasion of Iraq.This invasion is not taking place in our name, or in the name of our constituents. It will not only result in killing many innocent people in Iraq, it will also lead to an enormous increase in the number of refugees and displaced people.It will also have widespread ramifications for future global stability'.This decision by the Australian Government has seriously undermined the United Nations Security Council and our democratic principles. Peace and diplomacy have not been given a fair chance.
With 68 per cent of the Australian people against our involvement in this unilateral aggression, we can only reiterate that this invasion is not taking place in our name.Our hearts are with the innocent Iraqi civilians and with Australians of Iraqi backgrounds who fear for the safety of their loved ones.We are also extremely fearful of the wider implications this act of aggression against a Muslim nation will have on Muslims in Australia and the rest of the world.
Yogan Sathianathan OAM,
President, MCNT

How to combat evil?

Sir,- I was young; I schemed for peaceful profit, ‘cos war too wasteful (1969-70).
To publicise this plan, a mistake? To tell the street marchers – going the wrong way? The communists must have been paying me to be a peacenik!Everyone knows, the only way to combat evil is to help kill as many total strangers as far away as possible (Aussie expeditionary forces to Boer War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam…).
But wait! The evil empire (USSR) has disbanded! The yellow perils are now (mostly) trade markets …But yet! Saddam still has those WMD we all helped him get? And North Korea is easily provoked…
And here we go again! Hoo-ray!
Robert Drogemuller
Alice Springs

Labor against war

Sir,- The Labor Party voted against Australia's involvement in the war on Iraq as the United States commenced missile and aerial attacks on Baghdad.
In the House of Representatives on Tuesday night, I condemned the Prime Minister, saying this war will have a terrible impact on the lives of ordinary Iraqis and will also put Australian Defence Force personnel in danger.
There is no doubt that the coalition of the willing – led by the United States and Britain, with Australia as George Bush's lapdog – is acting against the will of the international community.Our standing in the world will plummet, because the Prime Minister has forfeited our principles and our foreign policy to the United States.
The way to resolve the problems with Iraq was diplomatically through the United Nations; not through war.I am extremely heartened by the level of support I have received for my stance from the Northern Territory community.Of the large number of phone calls and emails my office has received, not a single constituent has said they support Australia's involvement in the war.
I hope the community will demonstrate equal concern for the members of the Australian Defence Forces and their families.My heart goes out to the families of those Defence personnel who are taking part in this operation.
We hope that they are back home quickly and safely.These personnel are obeying the orders of the Government; they and their families deserve our respect and support for the sacrifices they are making.
While most Government and Opposition MPs took part in last Tuesday's debate, the member for Solomon did not list himself to speak.
It's noteworthy that the member for Solomon voted for this war but couldn't bring himself to speak on it in Parliament.Perhaps he's trying to hide.
Warren Snowdon
MHR, Lingiari

‘Thank God we have a hospital'

Sir,- Recently, ABC radio conducted a talk back session during which attacks were made on NT hospitals, including Alice Springs Hospital. Seldom have I heard such a mob of carping whingers. I wish I had publicly expressed my experiences on my discharge from our hospital but the events are recent enough to get my opinions stated.
One night I experienced severe chest pains. My wife rang 000, and although we are rural residents, an ambulance arrived very quickly and I was assisted by a cheerful and efficient crew. I was taken to the hospital, of which I had heard so many gloomy reports. My experiences were much different.
All the staff who attended to me, doctors, nurses, assistants and other ranks, were absolutely first class during my weeklong stay. Overworked and understaffed they may have been but they were also cheerful and efficient and very caring. They deserve praise and appreciation.
We should thank God that we have a hospital, and one staffed by such good people.
Not long ago I was informed that in some countries in Europe the wait for elective surgery is four years. Why don't we hear a collective moan from the other side of the world?
Probably because the patients migrate to Australia. Maybe even to the Northern Territory.
By all means let us agitate to improve health matters but at the same time let us count our blessings and give encouragement to those who work hard and long for our benefit.
Des Nelson
Alice Springs

Compassionate citizens of Alice

Sir,- As a citizen of the United States, who this past summer visited Australia, including Alice Springs and parts of the Northern Territory, I must say that Australians are amazingly nice, warm people who deserve a lot more credit than they actually receive.
When I travelled recently, I believe that Alice Springs was one of the better cities that I had visited.
The citizens of the city were so kind, compassionate, and not judgmental at all.
I congratulate your city and its people on being some of the most wonderful that I had the pleasure of meeting in the Australia.
It was a great city with a magnificent feel about it that made me feel like I was at home. I believe it is the people who make or break the town, but I perceived Alice Springs as being a marvellous and breathtaking city in the Outback of Australia.
Katherine
San Diego, California


CRICKET: CLASS WILL TELL. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

Sport can have some funny twists.
Last year Adrian McAdam and Federal parted ways, and McAdam moved to the Rover side who were at that stage looking down the barrel, with many players of old unavailable or transferred out of town with work.This last weekend, at the business end of the season, when Rovers took to the Albrecht pitch against Federal, it was that transferee McAdam who dictated Federal's fate.On Saturday Federal had first use of a strip which has been tailored for batsmen in recent times and they could only muster 184. They got off to a good start through the agency of their younsters, Tom Clements and Brendan Martin, but after that found solace only in the efforts of Nick Johns.
And with the ball it was McAdam who stood out. He took 7-46 in almost single handedly dismissing the One Day champions of 2002-2003.
The target was never going to be enough for the Feds to defend, and while Justin Dowsett contributed a superb 78 in the chase, McAdam again featured with a knock of 31.Hence it is now history that Federal are spectators and Rovers the opposition to minor premiers RSL in this weekend's grand final.RSL have had a season to remember. They appointed Jeff Whitmore as skipper and he took to the task of instilling discipline and purpose in their game in the pre-Christmas fixtures.
On more than one occasion when another captain would have called the game over once a decision was apparent, Whitmore kept his players at the task until six o'clock, playing every ball out.
The result stands for itself as they took a stranglehold on the minor premiership well before the end of the season, and so guaranteed themselves a place in the grand final whereby they had to be beaten to lose the flag.On paper RSL will start favourites. They may be without the services of young Tom Scollay, but they have a power of experience to draw upon. Graham Schmidt, Jamie Smith, Matt Forster and Scott Robertson, along with Whitmore, have the knowledge and the hours at the crease to know how to win.But in the Blues corner there is one unknown quantity. He could still be the best fast bowler in the Territory.
He has the ability to turn it on when it matters. And he has experienced the pressure of sport at levels way beyond that at Albrecht. Adrian McAdam could well take the bull by the horns on the weekend and win a premiership for the club that was expected to struggle this season.


CUP HOPEFULS ARE FACING UP. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

Racing moved one step closer to carnival time last Saturday when Pioneer Park again catered for the would-be champions of April racing.
In the first, the 1400 metre Festival Hall Class Two Handicap, Arch Henry showed the benefits of drawing barrier one, as he jumped well and led. Merrits who was heading for a third win in a row, pressured the leader but dropped off the pace on the turn. This left Origin Warrior to fight it out with Arch Henry but was no match as the winner scored by a length.
The favourite Mr Cardin was rattling on in the straight to pick up third place two and a half lengths in arrears. Mr Cardin's run should not be written off however as he jumped from the outside, so being forced three wide most of the journey.
In the Kenny's Best Pal Open Handicap over 1100 metres a few old timers join the field, making the Aspen Star win a stand out. Aspen Star, proving to be a true carnival contender, jumped from the inside barrier and led the field to the winning post. The two and a quarter length win gave Wayne Orbell and trainer Dick Leech another reason to keep coming south at this time of the year, as they landed the favourite from Binoculars, who ran another honest race, and Cypress Lakes.
The 1200 metre Centre Stalls Class Four Handicap saw the speedsters Punk, Ilkara and Strategic Feeling set the pace. Punk took over at the front, while each of the place getters were prepared to sit back and observe the action.
Coppers Edge was the most forward of this second group when the whips began to crack and so had the drop on the leaders in the straight. Despite a game bid by Punk he was over run, and Coppers Edge went to the line a half length winner from Solario with the favourite AlTaya a long head away third.
The win gave hoop Garry Lefoe a reason to celebrate with trainer Ken Rogerson.
The Lacryma Cristi Class D Handicap was raced over 1200 metres and gave the front runner Pierrot the opportunity to break the drought. Pierrot grabbed the lead early and was pushed along by Sarason's Girl to the six hundred.
Pierrot however showed too many guns and, when asked by Tim Norton, there was plenty in the tank. The three and a quarter length win made it a riding double on the day for Norton.
In second place was The Pharmacist who made up good ground in the straight, with Raja Mahal a nose away third. For Raja Mahal it was a creditable performance: starting from barrier nine was always going to be a challenge, and plenty of energy was used up in trying to share the running.
The last of the day the Portland Pirate Three Year Old over 1200 metres was a class event. Sent out favourite Our Mate Jack controlled the running from the early stages and proved to have potential in recording a four-length win.
The second horse home, Cartoon Hero, gave the field 10 or 12 lengths start around the back of the course but then careered home to out gun Soccer by three quarters of a length.

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